Building Botany Bay | Part 1 & 2
February 7, 2022
Cherie the farm mom here! :)
There aren’t many consumers in this country who can say, "I know where my meat and eggs come from!" but if you shop at Botany Bay Farm, you can say this, and it’s my goal over the next few emails to help you know your family farm even better! I’m here on the farm almost every day, and I’ve been here from the start, so I am well positioned to give you an inside look at how it started and who keeps it going. I’ll begin with how this farm came to be.
There’s a joke that says that the way to make a small fortune in farming is to start with a LARGE one. Well, we didn’t start that way, (nor have we acquired a small fortune!) but we did start with something large- our family of 14. When we first moved to this property from our ¼ acre lot in the city we had one little pet parakeet and 12 kids, one married, and 11 (age 2-23) ) still living at home. Today eight of our children have married and left the nest, but much credit is due to them for all the contributions of their time, talents, and skills. Without them, there’d be no Botany Bay, so these eight “kids” definitely deserve a shout-out when talking about the history of this farm!
Here’s a glimpse of how each of the first eight helped build Botany Bay from the ground up...
Sarah, our oldest child was already married and living in SC when the rest of us moved to the property, but we credit her for getting us into farming because she was the one that told us about the documentary Food, Inc. where we first learned of our role-model farmer Joel Salatin who motivated us to move onto land and get farming. Sarah also spent many hours designing our earliest marketing materials. From glossy advertisements to videos to creating a website that caught the eye of Weebly and landed our farm in a national commercial, she made our fledgling farm look good from the start.
Joseph put in countless hours of work building, painting, wiring, and fixing things (like our 1955 Farmall tractor!), and he helped us acquire and purchase much-needed farm tools and equipment.
Besides all of Rebekah’s wonderful help in the home and around the property cleaning, painting, and improving things, she was responsible for bringing our first flock of sheep to the farm.
Caleb became the farm manager upon graduating with an engineering degree from WSU-V in 2015. We are grateful for his leadership as well as the many structures and procedures that he put in place on the farm. Although Caleb is now employed elsewhere, he still occasionally helps the farm by fixing things or delivering feed materials.
Heidi helped in many ways in the home and on the property. She milked cows, represented our farm at markets and stores, was our customer service gal, and much more! If you’re a longtime customer of BBF, you may remember Heidi’s cheerful face and voice.
Christian left the farm about a year ago to use his WSU-V engineering degree elsewhere, but we are thankful he still comes around the farm once in a while to fix things like malfunctioning equipment and broken water lines (just last week!) And we wouldn’t have a walk-in freezer or automatic feed system if not for him!
Young, daring, and athletic, Joshua, was super helpful in many ways, but especially when it came to felling trees or shouldering 80lb bags of feed to hungry pigs! Whew! We are grateful for all the manpower he put into the farm.
Maria was our marketing gal after Heidi left home, but she was also the fastest chicken processor (aka gutter) on the farm. We miss her quick hands in the processing room, but we also miss all her professional cleaning-up and organizing abilities that she used to help make Botany Bay Farm beautiful!
The last time I wrote I gave you a glimpse of what the first two-thirds of our large family did to build Botany Bay Farm. Today I’m going to introduce you to the four children who are still living on the farm and going strong to keep us all in healthy meat and eggs!
Melody is our 9th child. When her older brothers decided it was time for them to move on to new employment in the spring of 2021, the farm leadership passed to Melody. This was a natural fit, given Melody’s love for animals, coupled with her knowledge of the farm processes, and we are grateful that she bravely and enthusiastically accepted the challenge.
From overseeing the care of the animals to answering customer questions to managing the website to scheduling orders and deliveries and pickups and processings, Melody keeps busy!
She is a “can-do” gal that doesn’t mind figuring things out. Melody is the one who researched and installed the card kiosk in our farm store. And she is the one who spearheaded the “curbside” pickup option so our customers could order ahead and have their items ready to go on Saturdays. This allows us to offer “bulk bundles” of our meats for a better price. Melody also figured out how products could be shipped for an overnight home delivery option so people within a 300+ mile radius can receive our products at their doorstep.
It’s obvious that what motivates Melody is improvement projects and she is currently planning another one: the construction of a new and improved “tiny farm store,” something that’s insulated and easier to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter and has a little more wiggle room inside. Melody has already proven she isn’t afraid to use power tools by tackling a couple of building projects in our house and yard, so I have confidence she, along with the help of her dad and siblings, will make this happen! The materials are arriving tomorrow so you should be noticing progress soon when you visit our current farm store.
As for hobbies, Melody enjoys cooking (particularly meats!), playing piano and guitar and singing, and creating short farm-life videos. She posts these on TikTok @farmermelody if you’d like to check them out.
Naomi is our 10th child and has been very helpful on the farm from a young age. Early on Naomi was involved with the chicken processing, and she and her younger sister Evelyn would wash (by hand!) and carton up hundreds of eggs a week. These days Naomi is in charge of the whole laying hen operation! This job includes mixing and grinding specialty feed ration every few days and lugging 5-gallon buckets of it to them for their daily feeding as well as making sure the hens stay dry in the winter, cool in the summer, and safe from hungry hawks and coyotes. No small task, to be sure.
When Naomi’s older brothers left the farm it was up to her to learn how to maneuver the vintage and temperamental John Deere tractor. Whether moving compost piles or pulling animal shelters, Naomi handles it with skill and grace, but her dream is to one day be able to upgrade to a tractor that doesn’t need so much finessing.
April through October, Naomi is an important part of the meat chicken raising team, moving chickens from brooder to field and from field to freezer, and everything in between, which includes the necessary but unenviable job of “dispatching” the chickens.
Year-round, Naomi tracks product inventory, stocks the farm store, and keeps the farm books. When asked what she likes best about working on this farm, Naomi said, “Having meaningful, useful, and practical work is my favorite aspect. I also love all the exercise and outdoor time, and I like the growth and improvement potential a farm offers. There’s always something to do and improve on a farm, you just have to put the work into it!”
Evelyn, is age 16 and our 11th child (we like to affectionately say she’s our “Elevelynth” child.) It was Evelyn who from the age of 8 would help her older sister Naomi wash eggs daily by hand. We now have an automatic egg washing machine so Evelyn can handle hundreds of eggs quickly by herself. If the hens are a-layin’, Evelyn’s keeping our tiny farm store well-stocked!
During the growing season, Evelyn manages the brooding of all the new laying hens and meat chickens. This entails preparing the heat lamps and bedding in the brooder “house” and settling new chicks in when they are a day or two old. She keeps the chicks watered and fed every day and at a comfortable temperature.
Evelyn is also an important part of the chicken processing team, removing heads, feet, and leftover feathers (that didn’t get removed by the plucking machine). Evelyn helps to package birds and parts and man the labeling station. After each chicken processing session, Evelyn makes sure everything’s sanitized and ready for the next week.
Two of Evelyn’s hobbies are photography and anything that has to do with being social. One of our dreams is to someday host dinners and other social events here on the farm. If we ever get the opportunity to do this, I know Evelyn will make a great social events/hospitality coordinator!
Micah is our last child. He just turned 13, but he’s had work to do on the farm since he was nearly half that age. That’s a great thing about a family farm: there’s always something for everyone to do, young or old!
Micah is an important part of the chicken processing team. For the last few years, his job has been to man the scalder. He must closely watch the temperature and the time the birds are in the water. If the water is too cold or the time isn’t long enough, the feathers won’t come off. If the temperature and time are too much, the fragile skin can tear.
Micah also helps his dad with the Angus cattle, moving fencing and water so the big black beauties can have fresh pasture paddocks every two or three days during the growing season.
Year-round, Micah keeps busy gathering hundreds of eggs each day in up to 8 specially designed egg-carrying baskets. He then carefully transports the eggs to the washing station where they’ll await their trip through the automatic egg washing machine.
Micah’s hobbies revolve around all things techy, including video editing, something we hope to soon put to use in making farm videos we all can enjoy.)
And so ends Building Botany Bay, Part 2. Thanks for reading!
Cherie (the farm mom) :)