L&A Family Farms

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Posted 10/17/2017 10:13pm by Brian Lau.

As many of you may remember, our theme for our summer sunflower maze was "Celebrating Grandma's 100th Birthday." Coming up quickly on Friday, October 27, it will be official, and our grandma, Letha Augustus, will be 100!

 

She has requested no gifts for her big day, but says cards would be appreciated. So, we would like your help in filling her mailbox with cards! If you are willing to send a card, please do so by mailing it to her at 21871 Staley Rd. Paris, IL 61944. We thank you for your support!

Posted 8/4/2017 8:35am by Brian Lau.

The past three weeks have been busy ones here on the farm as guests from across the country visit the sunflower maze. On Thursday, August 3, we ended our full bloom hours and returned to our regular store hours since the sunflowers have passed their peak. What does that mean for you? Can you still visit the maze? 

Above is a photo taken in the second planting of the maze Friday morning. As you can see, there is still a lot of color remaining, but the blooms are drooping and beginning to lose their petals.

 

With color remaining and great weather in the forecast, the maze will remain open for two more days (Friday, August 4 and Saturday, August 5). Please check our store page for hours of operation as they have been reduced from what they were. The wagon shuttle to and from the maze will continue Friday, but may or may not be running Saturday. There are many other tasks around the farm that need to be completed that require both the tractor and the tractor driver. Admission for the maze will remain the same ($3 per person with kids five and under free).

 

Beginning Sunday, August 6, the maze will be closed for the season. Our farm store is open year-round, though, so be sure to visit. We've received a new selection of products, including Wisconsin cheese!

Posted 7/14/2017 8:00pm by Brian Lau.

We're excited to open our second sunflower maze this summer! We've been busy the past week preparing the maze, store, and farm for this year's season. Unfortunately, multiple rounds of showers and thunderstorms created a muddy mess in the sunflower field, preventing us from mowing it as soon as we wanted and delaying other preparations around the farm.

In the meantime, the sunflowers continued to grow, and many of the buds in the first planting are either open or quickly developing yellow centers.

We've heard excitement and anticipation from a lot of people in the past month, and while the maze isn't in full bloom at this point, we wanted to give an opportunity to see the maze and enjoy the pleasant weather in the forecast for Saturday. Therefore, we will have the maze OPEN Saturday, July 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central time for a sunflower maze "sneak peek." Many of the details remain the same, as you can find on our sunflower maze page. Keep in mind the ground is still soft, so wear shoes you wouldn't mind getting muddy if you visit.

The maze will be CLOSED Sunday, July 16, but we hope to begin our full bloom hours later that week. Keep checking social media for the latest.

We can't wait to see you, and we hope you enjoy your time on the farm!

Posted 5/26/2017 10:27am by Brian Lau.

It’s been a busy few months at L&A Family Farms, and we wanted to let you know about the new service we are FINALLY offering.

From the responses we’ve received on surveys, it appears convenience is important to obtaining our products. While we have our on-farm store, most do not like to take the time out of their schedule to visit.

Now, you don't have to make a trip to the store or visit one of our farmers' market stands on Saturday morning; we are offering a Neighborhood Delivery Service! We will deliver our farm fresh products to your neighborhood. All you have to do is sign up, place your order, and be willing to meet us at a specific time and location to pick it up.

If this is something you are interested in or simply want more information, please check out the Neighborhood Delivery Service section under the CSA tab on our website.

We need your help in getting the word out about this service. Please tell your family and friends about it. For your convenience, you can download our promotional PDF to share.

We currently have pick-up locations set in Paris and Marshall. We are also trying to finalize the specifics of a drop site in the northern part of Terre Haute.

If we do not deliver in your neighborhood at this time, would you consider hosting a pick-up location? You can fill out this form if you are potentially interested in hosting a new pick up location. Filling out this form does not commit you to anything. This will allow us to keep you informed of any opportunity that may arise in your area.

We are excited to offer you this service, and time will tell if this model will be successful!

Posted 4/13/2017 3:28pm by Brian Lau.

Happy Easter! 

Have you ever wondered or thought about how an egg became a symbol of Easter? A quick internet search revealed several possibilities. The one that made the most sense to me was from the early Christian tradition of Lent.

Lent is a 40 day time period of repentance, fasting, and preparation for the coming of Easter. For early Christians, dairy, meat, and eggs were fasted during Lent. During this strict Lenten fast, eggs were not eaten for 40 days.

Eggs without refrigeration, unlike the dairy and meats, do not perish quickly. Since the hens would have kept laying through the 40 day period, there would have been an abundance of eggs on Easter. With Easter being the end of the Lenten fast, the abundance of eggs would have made them a mainstay of Easter meals and a prized gift for children. 

Since Easter is upon us I will share with you a couple of egg recipes that your family will surely enjoy!

 

 

                                           1492117053_0ec14dbb4ab0.jpg

 

                     Rise and Shine Egg Casserole

INGREDIENTS

  •   2 lb. pkg. frozen hash browns
  •   8 L & A Family Farms eggs
  •   1 c. milk
  •   2 c. shredded cheddar cheese      
  •   1 lb.  L & A Family Farms sausage
  •   ½ c. diced onions (optional)
  •   ½ c. green peppers (optional)
  •   Salt
  •   Pepper

 

DIRECTIONS  

Preheat oven to 350°.  Whisk the eggs.  Put hash browns into 9 x 13 casserole dish.  In skillet, brown the sausage, drain off grease.  Put browned sausage on top of hash browns. Put onions and/or green peppers on sausage.  Mix in bowl eggs, milk and shredded cheese.  Pour that mixture over all.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover dish with foil.  Bake for 40 minutes.  Uncover dish and bake an additional 10 minutes.    

 

Deviled Eggs

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 dozen hard boiled eggs
  • 3/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½  - 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons mustard
  • 1 ½ - 2 Tablespoons vinegar
  • Dash of pepper 

 

DIRECTIONS

Slice the eggs in half lengthwise, removing yolks to a medium bowl, and placing the whites on a serving platter. Mash the yolks into a fine crumble using a fork. Add butter, sugar, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper, and mix well. Evenly disperse heaping teaspoons of the yolk mixture into the egg whites.  

Optional:  Decorate with paprika, parsley, or red onions.  

Posted 3/25/2017 4:45pm by L&A Family Farms.

     From a distance, it appeared our hens were out enjoying their pasture on the first full day of spring; however, upon closer inspection, there were no fences confining these hens.

     This group of egg layers arrived on the farm in the fall of 2016. After spending six weeks in the brooder house, they made their move to the hoop building for winter housing. Chickens – true to their name – are scared of anything unusual in their enclosure whether it runs, walks, or just sits. A good example of this behavior unfolds when feeding them fruit and vegetable scraps. The mere tossing of a banana peel sends the flock into panic mode, causing them to flap their wings and scatter in all directions, filling the building with dust. Since cold weather arrived before they were old enough to enjoy the pasture, they hadn’t experienced time outside of the building until Tuesday.

     At some point during the day, gusty winds blew one of the doors open on the building.

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but it also drove the hens outside to explore their surroundings. They didn’t just stop at the pasture, though. With their instincts kicking in, the hens scrambled across the property line where a wooded area with low sprawling bushes and briars offered better protection from predators in the air. There they set up camp for the day and enjoyed scratching through leaves, eating any bugs or seeds they found, and perching on tree branches. They were happy, happy, happy!


 

Happy hens!

     

     Any attempts made to usher them back inside only sent them further into the woods, so the decision was made to wait for another instinct to kick in. When the sun begins to set, chickens head for their homes to roost for the night. This can be a pain when moving them to different buildings since they’ll attempt to return to their old home, but it was helpful in this situation. Once the sun started sinking below the horizon, some of the hens went inside on their own, but a hundred or so required some persuasion.

     Herding chickens can be interesting. It is best to keep them in groups because if singled out, they’ll take off full speed, beginning a seemingly never-ending chasing game. The herding process clearly explains why people came up with “birdbrain.” The hens could be standing about a foot away from an open door, but they’d still try to run around the side of the building, attempting to find another way inside. After nearly 45 minutes of chasing them out of the woods and herding them to the building, four of us were finally able to get the hens back inside for the night.

     Our eggs are labeled “pasture-raised,” but any laid from that flock in the following days easily met the definition of “free-range!”

 

 

Posted 1/7/2017 12:48pm by Brian Lau.

Most winter days are cold and dreary with bare trees and brown grass dominating the landscape, so we decided to put together an recap of the 2016 sunflower maze to brighten things up.

An aerial view of the sunflower maze captured by a drone.

An aerial view of the sunflower maze captured by a drone.

 

Here are the links to the stories of local reporters and journalists who made their way to the maze. We thank each and every one of them for helping make our first sunflower maze a success.

 

"Local family farm offers unique experience with 10-acre sunflower maze"

By: Lindsey Yates | News 10 WTHI, Terre Haute, Ind.

 

"L&A Family Farms Creates Sunflower Maze"

By: Cody Adams | WTWO/WAWV News, Terre Haute, Ind.

 

"Sunflower Maze Growing in Central Illinois"

By: Ryan Burk | WCIA 3 News, Champaign, Ill.

 

"Getting lost in wildflowers"

By: Nancy Zeman | The Prairie Press, Paris, Ill.

 

"Beyond the sunflower maze, family's store focuses on freshest of foods"

By: Nick Hedrick | Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.

 

Sunflowers bask in the hot July sun at L&A Family Farms.

 

Nearly 500 people took in the view of over 220,000 sunflowers blooming across 10 acres. Unfortunately, the hot and humid weather limited the length of the full bloom period of the maze.

Fun in the maze! Thanks to Leslie Ann Wright for sharing this photo with us.

Engagement photo session! Thanks to Becky Golden for sending us this photo. Congratulations! Photo credit: Stephanie Beck Photography

Click here to check for updates about 2017's maze. 

Posted 10/11/2016 3:31pm by Brian Lau.

During October and November we will be trimming our store hours. The new hours will be as follows:

Sunday and Monday: Closed

Tuesday - Friday:10am-12pm and 1pm-3pm

Saturday: 10am-4pm

If these hours do not work in your schedule, please contact us and we can set up a time to meet you at the store. Thank you for your support.

Posted 3/20/2014 6:12pm by Brian Lau.

      A few weeks ago we moved the cow/calf herd from my neighbor’s farm back to the main farm. The snow had FINALLY started to melt and the pastures we let grow out last fall were starting to be exposed. Stock piling pastures in the fall allows the cows to graze for themselves and not be dependent on us feeding them winter hay. This is easier on us and they seem to enjoy the different menu. The first step in the process actually happened the day before. We didn’t feed them as much hay as normal, so they would be a little hungrier when we moved them. Next, Dad and Cory constructed temporary electric fence lanes to move the cows. This was somewhat of a challenge since the ground was still frozen, but by using metal electric fence posts they were able to drive them in with a small sledge hammer. Then they checked the permanent pasture fences for downed trees or limbs and made sure the electric fence was properly working.

     Now the infrastructure was in place and working properly, so we had to get the cows from point A to point B. Since the cows are used to following the tractor when I feed them hay, the plan was to get a bale and drive up the lane and the cows would follow. All of the older animals had made this jaunt the prior summer, so there should have been some familiarity. I knew there could be a potential problem, since we had several young calves and calves do not always follow their mom when she goes off to feed. As I started up the lane, the lead group of cows was right on my tail, and as I looked back, the rest were spread out, but were starting to head in the right direction to follow me up the lane. As I was about to lose sight of the pasture where they had been, I saw a couple cows and 4 calves that were hanging back and not following. I had to keep moving on, since the cows behind me were getting impatient. When I got to the location where I was going to feed the bale, I could see a long string of cattle still following me. By the time I got done unrolling the bale I could see off in the distance the two cows and calves starting down the lane. I had Cory take the 4 wheeler and get behind them so they wouldn’t double back. As I was watching from a distance, I saw one of the cows that had just been feeding on the hay heading quickly back towards the calves. My first thought was one of the four calves was hers and she was going to reunite with her calf. When she got with this group she turned around and headed back to the hay. We were feeling good that the move was successful, so we headed back home.

     When we got back to the original pasture, we saw what I was afraid would happen, but thought hadn’t. There were three calves left behind. Although the move was not that far since my neighbor’s farm and ours border each other, it is far enough that you can’t see one pasture from the other. We tried working the calves in the right direction but gave up after a short pursuit, since they were starting to panic and they were much quicker than we are. Plus, it was deemed useless since they were unaware of their new surroundings and they couldn’t see the others. It was now lunch time, so I came up with a plan to shut the gate between the farms, and while we were at lunch momma would come to the gate, bawl for her calf, the calf would come to her, and after lunch we would just open the gate and momma would lead the calves to the new location. In my perfect world this was going to work fine, so we headed for lunch. Hindsight is always better; we should have left the gate open, but we didn’t want the whole herd to come back while we were at lunch. No sooner had we gotten back to the house and looked up, we saw a cow standing at the closed gate. She bawled and her calf answered. As we were about to go open the gate, the cow went out of sight. We assumed she went back to the new pasture, so we decided to go to lunch. You might be wandering why lunch time is so important. My wife and kids are all at school, so during the winter I have the privilege to eat lunch with my parents, grandmother, and my little nephew, so I try to be on time. They only live about a half a mile from me, and as I was driving to lunch I noticed the mother cow was with her calf. The problem was momma was on the wrong side of the fence. When she had gone out of sight she must have jumped over our temporary fence to get to her calf. She has great maternal instincts and those are attributes we like see in our cows (the escape instinct not so much.) I called mom and told her I was going to be late for lunch. My first thought was this was not going to take too long since luckily the cow and calf were not too far from a gate my neighbor uses to get into his woods. All I have to do is open the gate and have mom walk into the pasture to be with her calf. Unfortunately what I think and reality don’t always meet. When I opened the gate, the cow paused and didn’t quickly go through the gate, but the calf did, so now they were both on the wrong side of the fence. Bummer. My next thought was that they might go into the woods instead of following the fence back from where she had come, but luckily as I was pursuing them on foot, the calf ran back through the fence, so now mom was content to follow the fence line, momma on one side and two calves following on the other. I was able to get in front of them and take down the temporary fence to let momma back into the lane and then open the gate so they could get together. This time it worked right. The cow and the two calves headed up the lane to rejoin the herd.

     One problem down but one to go. Remember I said there were three calves left behind. Regrettably the three calves didn’t stay together. This time I decided to leave the gate open and went to lunch, hoping its mother would come get it while I was at lunch. During lunch I decided if momma hadn’t come to get her calf we would just catch it and haul it to the new field on the 4 wheeler. This calf had only been born a few days earlier, and when we were pushing the calves earlier, we had worn him down enough we could have caught him.

     After lunch and after we had processed that day’s eggs, we went to check on the calf. The calf was still by itself. Cory and I hopped on the 4 wheeler and thought we would drive up catch it and take it to momma. Once again in a perfect world this would have worked. The calf must have slept the entire time we were gone. Needless to say, he had more energy and was quicker than we were, and guess what happened next? Surprise, surprise-- he ran through the fence and into the woods. The pursuit was on. We eventually got him out of the woods and he ran through the fence again back into the pasture. We wondered how many times this was going to happen before we wore him down enough to catch him. We were starting to wish we were real cowboys and had a lasso to rope him. We finally caught him and placed him on the 4 wheeler and took him to rejoin the herd. When we got there we found his mom grazing contently. We released the calf; she called for him and he started nursing immediately. It appeared there was no harm done, and finally all of the cattle were where they were supposed to be. Needless to say all didn’t go as planned, but it was a successful day.

Posted 3/5/2014 4:30pm by Brian Lau.

    

I would like to catch you up on where we are currently with the egg side of the business. The egg business was filled with many struggles in 2013 and I want to first apologize for not being able to supply the normal amount of eggs to our customers and vendors. Poor management on my part is to blame, but before I take 100% responsibility, let me remind you that a lot of the managing decisions I make have financial constraints. As you recall, in 2012 we had a major drought in our area. This affected us in many ways, but most importantly we had to pull up our bootstraps and make personal sacrifices. We had limited money to work with and we had to decide how to divide it up. Which enterprise needed it the worst to keep the business moving forward? The egg enterprise was continuing to grow, as more and more people were experiencing the benefits of our eggs. We were outgrowing our infrastructure and we knew we needed a new building to raise replacement pullets. Also one of our brooder houses needed major repairs, but there was not enough money in the budget. Pullets were not started in the fall of 2012 like I had planned. What I didn’t realize at the time was how bad it was going to get before I could start a new batch and stop the bleeding.    In March 2013 we were getting over 8000 eggs; by August we were down to 6000 eggs and by November, we were down to 3000. That is a pretty significant drop in production. The main culprit was that the hens went through a molt. A molt is when a chicken loses its old feathers, which are replaced with new ones. During a molt, egg laying declines or stops completely. All of the hen’s nutrition is used to grow new feathers, not produce eggs. Also as the hens aged, we had an increase in death loss, especially when combined with the summer heat, plus declining day lengths in the fall; these all led to lower production. To further complicate the situation, we didn’t get the brooder house repaired by March so we couldn’t get pullets started in the spring like we normally do. These factors all helped with the perfect storm of bad management and financial decline. If there was a positive note, it was the great lessons learned from my mistakes.   By July we had the brooder house repaired and new pullet chicks started. They started laying eggs in December, so we are finally starting to get an increase in our daily egg numbers again. This will not get us back to full production yet, but it will help. In October we started another batch of 400 pullet chicks.      Even with this last batch of pullets we had to go to plan B. Remember I said we needed a new building. In September, a new 30X72 ft hoop house was purchased and the goal was to start construction ASAP. Do you recall the two weather events we had during the 2013 growing season? One was an excessively wet spring which caused late planting, which in turn led to a late wet harvest; the other was a dry late summer and fall. Both of these events delayed the construction of our building. The harvest extended into November and the dry hard ground did not allow us to drive the ground posts for the building until we received some rains. Those chicks we started in October were forced to stay in the brooder houses longer than normal. Conditions were far from perfect, but they survived remarkably well. By the end of November we started construction and with a few weather delays (snow, temps, and wind) we finished by the end of December. On December 31 we moved the pullets into their new winter home and they have now started laying. Our egg numbers will improve significantly each and every day.

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