2021 was our first full year of operation at Helping Hens Farm. We knew that 2020 would be our "building" year, as we built out infrastructure, expanded our flock, and built the relationships in the community we needed to make this all work.
So, how did 2021 go? Overall, I have to say that we're very happy with how things went on the micro-farm this past year. We were able to build on 2020 and get into a good routine. We had some successes, a few failures, and lots of lessons learned.
We also were able to make a significant impact, in our own small way.
We were able to donate a total of 913 dozen eggs. That's 10,956 eggs. And I washed 90% of them myself. That's a lot of sink time!
In our small community, we're hopeful that these eggs helped those in need. We partnered with the food pantry run out of a church in town to distribute the bounty.
Depending on the time of year and the flock's productivity, we dropped as few as 5 dozen eggs a week to as many as 27 dozen. All told, the average came out to a little more than 17 dozen a week.
In addition, our twice-weekly food waste pickups have become part of the routine. Some weeks schedule or weather provide challenges, but somehow we always manage.
We switched to the five-gallon buckets, and they've worked out really well. They're much easier to empty and we're not throwing away bunches of soiled trash bags every week.
We didn't count or weigh the total amount of food waste (a truck scale wasn't in the farm budget), but I'd estimate the total to be just around 1,800 five-gallon buckets full of food waste.
All of that food waste, which was collected from another partner food bank, was landfill bound. Instead of filling up the food bank's dumpster and requiring extra tipping fees, we took it.
Keeping it out of the landfill also helps extend the life of the landfill and greatly reduces the greenhouse gases released. 100 pounds of food waste will produce roughly 8 pounds of methane in a landfill. Methane is many times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
How much does a bucket of food waste weigh? It varies greatly. I've had some buckets that I admittedly struggle with, while one full of something like lettuce or other greens is nice and light. While the lettuce buckets are light, they are a flock favorite, and lettuce has a particularly high carbon cost, so we're happy to take any waste greens we can get our hands on.
We're excited to start 2022 and see what the year brings on the farm. We plan to add some more chickens come spring to replenish after a few losses and to further expand production. If we can find point-of-lay hens, we would love to to that route, but if that's not possible, we'll raise them from chicks.
Overall, life on the farm is getting into a good routine. Our biggest challenges is sourcing enough carbon to keep the system in balance, dealing with losses, and occasionally finding enough hours in the day to get all the chores done. I expect sometime in 2022 the that the pure volume of compost we have produced to start to be a challenge...but I suppose it's a good problem to have.
On the bright side, we'll start 2022 with the big pallet composter cleaned out and all the partially composted material distributed into the hay bale composters. Having more space for incoming material is a good way to start the year!