In Hog Heaven at Circle C Farm in Bonita Springs, Florida, reports the Naples Herald!
Circle C Farm (CCF) is a non-GMO, no hormones, no antibiotics, pesticide free poultry and livestock farm. CCF was started on an abandoned orange grove that had been dormant for over 10 years. They have 130 acres in Felda. Where is this you may ask? Felda is in Hendry County near Labelle.
Their main laying hen facility is in Bonita Springs, where they have 7 acres, and a retail store, which is open to the public.
All of their product (although fresh can be special ordered as well) is Cryovaced. What is nice about this is there is a level playing field in terms of quality. Whether chef, of consumer, all get the same thing.
Everything needs a good foundation and they are very picky here. When new chickens come in, they tend to them every couple of hours for the first few days to build a firm foundation for their growth. As with all their animals, they want them to mature to be the best quality they possibly can be.
They at any one time they have 4500 chickens at this facility. CCF processes about 1000 birds a week here. At 4-6 pounds each, that’s a lot of chicken!
CCF uses Cornish Cross chickens, bred for their heartiness and rapid growth. Once transferred from a Brooder, a substitute for their mother, CCF uses mobile chicken coops so they can mature to almost full grown size. This serves a couple of functions.
If not protected, birds of this size are easy targets for predators such as eagles and hawks. Once they are almost fully grown, predators show little interest in them.
I think this encounter is somewhat illustrative of that.
The chicken coops, being mobile, are moved every couple of days. This provides fertilizer for the pasture, and the difference in grass growth is dramatic.
Before visiting CCF, I thought of the term sustainability as a hackneyed and cliched term, nothing more than a selling point. To see it in action is quite impressive, and I finally got it.
They are very careful when harvesting their product. Stress can ruin the flavor of the meat. It can take 20 minutes, for example, to destroy 2 years of work raising a cow.
When harvesting, their chickens are processed as stress free as possible. This is their chicken processing facility.
Virtually nothing is wasted at CCF. There is a brisk trade for chicken backs, legs and necks for chicken stock. Even chicken that is too mature and is not really edible is sold raw for dog food.
CCF raises sheep and it was really trial and error for them.
They also have a number of cattle.
They mix Brahman bulls with their Angus cows. Brahman bulls are heat tolerant, resistant to parasites, and produce really good meat. Cross breeding passes these characteristics along. They keep donkeys in with their cattle and sheep.
The donkeys are very sensitive to predators, and sound the alarm bell if some are near. This signals the dogs, which chase after them.
Both the sheep and cows are fed spent grain for one of the local craft breweries. This is a high protein, high fiber food source which apparently is well suited for Ruminants. This is also feed for their pigs as well.
Both the grains and natural predator “alarm bells” are other really great examples of sustainability here.
CCF has a couple of different Heritage breeds of pigs on their property, Red Wattles and Large Black pigs.
The large blacks are very docile as their ears cover their eyes and they can’t see that well.
CCF does not do any breeding on site. To have Sows on premises is the last thing any pig rancher would want under these circumstances. They would be a magnet for wild boar. Wild boar not only carry disease but it is very undesirable to have any breeding with these animals.
There are also a number of Zebus on site.
These are kind of miniature Brahman. They help weaning animals by giving them companionship when separated from their mothers. They also help transition the young animals from milk to grass by leading them out to pasture.
Recently, CCF had a litter of red wattles.
After our tour, we were given a few things to take home that were “egg-ceptional”.
I love the farming methods at CCF and the thought given to their day-to-day operations. As with craft brewers, I think these farming methods will very much become in demand with the public and somewhat turn large agribusiness on its ear. This is already happening with ‘big beer’.
Now that I have seen sustainability at work I have come full circle and see the light. Perhaps that is what their logo is all about.
Story and Photos by Peter Horan of the Naples Herald June 1, 2016