Farm Life

Outlook into a bright future

Our main goal at this farm is to produce healthy food, not only for this season and for this year, but into the long term future and for generations to come. So for the last year or so we spent a lot of time thinking, talking, discussing, meeting with friends and fellow farmers to address this very issue. This issue is a big question for all small scale farms, but we would like to talk about some challenges for our farm in particular.

The biggest need for our farm right now is labor and a transitioning process of the general operations to the next generation of farmers. Currently the farm is run by just the two of us, Mark and Petra. And with Petra working part-time off the farm most of the daily work falls onto Mark, seven days a week. Not exactly a healthy situation. It is time to lighten that load, share that responsibility and work together with others. For the moment our son is helping out here and there, but he will soon continue his education and pursue other interests. So we are hiring a farmer outside of our own family.

Over the past year we started working together with other farms for the benefit of all involved. We have a number of animals custom grazed at Turtle Creek Garden, an organic vegetable farm in Delavan. Wee needed extra land for these extra animals we need to pay to hire a farmer starting this spring and Turtle Creek is looking to bring animals onto their land for fertility purposes. For the past few years we had been a pick up location for their CSA and we are looking to find more ways to work together in the future.

We are also planning to offer new products, including value-added items and are currently looking for the best way to set all this up to make sure we will be able to offer you the most nutritious and healthy versions of these foods.

We hope you will grow with us into a community around healthy food and help us to make sure we all will be able to have access to the foods of our choice in the future.

Mark and Petra Zinniker

Free grazing

Farm animals have access to a lush variety of grasses and plants

Hogs at home digging in the dirt

Grass-fed beef cooking tips

Congratulations on making a food choice that will make you feel good all the way around!! As you were searching for the best meat option for your family's dinners you probably came across the statement that grass-fed beef needs to be cooked differently. So we would like to give you some resources to make sure you will have a delicious cooking and dining experience with the wonderful meat you bought.

The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook by Shannon Hayes is a must have for your cookbook collection. Hayes covers all kinds of meats and cuts from beef, pork, lamb and poultry to bison, venison, goat and rabbit. She gives directions for low temperature cooking and has a wonderful collection of marinades to choose from. Shannon Hayes also writes a blog called "The Radical Homemaker" and earlier this year she posted about what not to do:

Top 5 Grassfed Misteaks

Check it out, those are some very helpful hints!



The story of the weather

February 20, 2013

Running a business always means making adjustments to changing conditions and unexpected challenges, no matter what kind of business one pursues.

In the business of farming, the biggest challenge to juggle is also one the farmer has  absolutely no influence over.  And that is the weather. It can be the deciding factor between success or failure within a very shore period of time, like a single growing season.

It is probably due to this influence to their business that farmers like to talk a lot about the weather.

2012 made for a very challenging farming season. Starting with un-seasonally warm temperatures in March, late killing frosts in April, long stretches of heat during the summer months and of course the drought.

It wasn’t until this past January that the snow and rains brought some moisture back into the soil.

Let’s hope timely rains will continue to refill the water table, bring moisture into the sub-soils and make things grow and flourish for the 2013 growing season.



Looking back to look ahead – Planning for 2013

January 9, 2013

Farming practices  at the Zinniker Farm have always been different form most farms around us. Not only because we use Biodynamic methods, make compost, focus on sustainability and don’t get bothered by the looks of a few weeds here and there, because we see weeds as having a role on the farm as well as the crops we grow.

But when the trend and  University expert advice told everyone to get bigger and to specialize in one certain area, for example: specialize in milk production or specialize in beef production and buy your feed from someone who specializes in growing crops, we still continued to believe in the principal of having the farm supply as much of what is needed to raise its crops and animals as possible. That means the amount of land, animals and crops of different kinds relate to each other, so that the feed for the animals can as much a possible come from the land and the animal’s manure goes back to keep the land fertile and keep the nutrient cycle within the farm.

That is not to say that there haven’t been changes made over the years. Grazing became the primary summer feed source for the cows, hay in the winter. Corn silage was eliminated out of their diet,  grain was very limited. Other animals like turkeys and pigs were added and their dietary needs are quite different from the cows.
But the idea to grow as much of our own feed as possible stayed the same.

So when in 2012 the rain kept on staying away, it became very clear by the time the crops, especially corn were harvested that we have to make some adjustments to our production plan for 2013.

There will be a shortage of crops and feeds, not only at the Zinniker Farm, but in many parts of the contry. Prices have skyrocket.
So what does this mean for the Zinniker Farm products…

Some of the animals we raise, like chickens, turkeys and pigs, do best when offered a variety in their diet and the base is made up of a mixture of several different grains and mineral supplements like kelp.

With the limited yield from our own grain harvest we will have to buy some grain (in our case corn). This will result in a price increase for some of our products. We also will have to prioritize and limit the offers of some of the products.

Details will follow soon.



Summer on the Farm

June 18, 2012

With a look at the calendar, we see that the official beginning of summer is nearly upon us. Here on the farm it has felt like summer began weeks ago.

The cows are out grazing, the meat chickens are out on pasture, the crops are all planted and with all the warm weather we had early in the year, the first cutting hay harvest is already brought into storage.

Now it’s all about rain and getting enough moisture in the ground to keep things growing, so the bounty of harvest can continue.



Moving towards summer on the Zinniker Farm

June 1, 2012

The hens are laying, the bees are buzzing, and the farmers are busy (as always!) here on Zinniker Farm. The biodynamic preparations that we buried in the compost pile are working away, and the animals are basking in the sunshine and eating their fill of grasses and clover.

We hope you will stop by our farm to see how the growing season is progressing! We have plenty of eggs and soap available for purchase, and the honey harvest is beginning as well. You might even catch a glimpse of the chickens and pigs.