I'm really enjoying the interest people have in local food, and what I really enjoy is that your choice in what you eat is expanding. Part of this expansion of your choices is Paul Johnson, who runs Pastured Sensations, located in Snohomish, WA.
My operation and Pauls are both based on animals on pasture. He's taken a further step to formulate and produce his own feed, choosing to make it soy and corn free. Most of the commonly available feed is mostly corn and soy, and there are groups of people who are concerned about it, and Paul is filling that niche nicely.
The primary ingredients to his feed are field peas, wheat, triticale, fish meal and trace elements, and I'm pretty interested in what he's doing, not so much because i'm concerned about soy, but because it's something I'm considering doing for my own farm. Feed costs are the biggest single expense at this point for me, and I'm figuring that I'm paying 30-40% more than the raw ingredient costs now. So he's doing it to get the specialized feed he wants, I'd do this same sort of thing to allow me to buy wholesale and save some money. His feed components are more expensive than mine; I'd probably go for a more conventional mix, but grinding/mixing your own feed gives you the opportunity to control what your animals are fed, and that's a good thing, in my book. You also have the opportunity to source more local ingredients. When you buy from a mill you have no idea where it's coming from.
For his poultry he uses schedule 40 plastic pipe, bent on a jig that you can see here on the sawhorses. He'll take this basic frame, put some chicken wire on it, and a tarp or two, and have lightweight, easily moveable pens that he uses to pasture his chickens.
here four of those pens are out on grass. Each pen contains 30-60 chickens, and the pens are moved periodically so that the chickens get fresh grass. These pens are also visible from the highway, and I suspect that the advertising value is pretty good. You don't have to ask if his chickens are on grass. You see them every day. As someone whose entire farm is also visible from the highway, I admire a fellow spirit who practices completely transparent farming.
Paul makes extensive use of fairly lightweight materials. This is one of his microbarns; a brood house for his chickens and turkeys. The door is about 6' tall. They're attractive, small buildings. He builds them as he needs them, and they're light enough that you could probably move them around without too much trouble. Nice idea.
Inside each one are brooders, each containing a feeder, a light, and a waterer. The side towards the center slides off for eash cleaning. Here a batch of meat chickens are brooding until they're old enough to go out on pasture.
Here's a batch in another brooder that are ready to go out on pasture; probably 3 weeks old. These brooder boxes are built on legs -- so that the chickens are at a height that's easy to reach them while you're standing, and that just makes life so much easier. There's storage underneath them on either side.
There are small touches throughout these that really show an attention to detail, and a thriftyness that I really like. First, notice that the corners are braced, right in the center of the picture, and second, notice that the feeder is a black plastic planting pot, with a pot bottom from a larger pot below it. there's a block of wood between the two. So when you fill the pot with feed, it runs out the holes that normally provide drainage for the plant. The dish below catches it, and the whole thing costs maybe $2. Nice.
So how did I get to know Paul? He's starting to do pigs, so I've been lending a hand as he works through the pig husbandry stuff. He's doing great. Here's his pigs out on pasture. I really enjoy seeing animals that are clearly having a good time. Note the electric fence. You don't need much once the pigs are conditioned to it.
Here's a wider view. This is one of the reasons that I love the flood plain land around snohomish so much. Lush, green... lovely farmland. It really is pretty country.
In the interest of disclosure, I've done some business with Paul, bought and sold some stuff, but there's no agreement with him about what I wrote here; it's strictly my opinion. I enjoy having his energy and interest in diversifying what people can buy and eat.