Friday, May 18, 2007

A little bit more about me (plus a picture)

By the way Tim if you read this: Thanks for picking out a good picture. You didn't even have to chop out my head :-D

Sustainable farming enhances Chickamauga couple’s life
Tim Carlfeldt
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Byron and Monica DeLoach, owners of Small Meadow Farm in Chickamauga, inspect a newborn lamb. (Messenger photo/Tim Carlfeldt)

LISTEN: Monica DeLoach talks about dealing with hay shortages due to the drought (0:42)

Tucked away on a dead-end road on the outskirts of Chickamauga, Small Meadow Farm is a work in progress for owners Byron and Monica DeLoach.

The couple bought their house and 6½ acres at the end of West 12th Street back in the fall of 2004, and they now raise a variety of livestock and have a small garden.

The DeLoaches consider themselves collectors of old-fashioned knowledge. “We’re history buffs, so a lot of our drive comes from the desire to learn what people knew back in the day.”

They moved to the area from Ellijay to ease Byron’s commute to Chattanooga, though he now oversees the computer operations of Ringgold Telephone Co.

They have two children: Alek, 19, is studying to be a teacher, and Torrey, 15, is finishing his first year at Gordon Lee High School. He also likes to help out on the farm.

They wanted to own some acreage for farming, and when they found the land in Chickamauga they quickly moved to buy it.

“We’d live even farther out if we could,” said Byron. “I grew up in the country, so I had plenty to do to keep me out of trouble, remembering being outside most of the time tending gardens and horses.

Not long ago the DeLoaches lived in a subdivision for a time. “Seeing the kids live such sedentary lives really motivated us to get back to the land,” Byron said. “They get more exercise and they get to see where their food comes from.

Monica says that if someone decides that they’re not going to be a vegetarian, “Then the next best thing is to raise your own meat. You know how it was treated, you know it had a happy, healthy life with a sunny field to roam about rather than stuck in an indoor industrial manure pit.”

Along with remodeling their house, the DeLoaches continue improvements to the farm, where they raise Icelandic sheep, Irish Dexter cattle and three heritage breeds of free-range chickens.

“The Icelandic sheep and the Dexters are easy to raise. I can handle all these animals by myself, which is essential if Byron gets called out of town on business,” Monica said. “I can chase down a loose cow or pull apart two rams that are fighting if I need to.”

Becoming profitable

The output of the farm certainly helps with the family budget, and even on their small scale the DeLoaches are hoping the farm will be financially profitable within the year from selling animals and their products.

In their farming they espouse genetic diversity principles which seek to preserve traditional livestock breeds that have become unpopular to commercially mass-produce.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, preferred methods for quick mechanical harvesting or qualities that endure long storage on the way to market has caused the agricultural diversity in the world’s food supply to be greatly reduced in the past century.

“We like to live a little more sustainably, like people did 50 or 60 years ago,” Monica said. “Even now you can’t always run right down to the grocery store and buy the most healthy food possible for you.”

Their garden is all organic and heavily mulched with piles of leaves they arranged to get from citywide collections.

They’ve learned how to spin their sheep’s wool into yarn for making a variety of apparel. “That’s not something that I want to do with all my clothing,” said Monica, “but it’s been a very interesting thing to learn.”

The drought that Northwest Georgia is currently suffering has affected farms both large and small, and with their pastures growing slowly, the DeLoaches say it’s been stressful to find hay to augment their feed supply.

“Under normal conditions we feed hay through the winter up into March,” Byron said, “but this past season we started in August and we’re still feeding hay now.”

Monica said she is thankful to the local hay growers for keeping their prices level despite the drought. “None of them have raised their price beyond what they were selling at last year or even the year before that.”

That isn’t the case in all parts of the country, she said, “And if the prices get too high, we have to butcher our animals before we really want to because we can’t afford to feed them.”

By rotating their livestock through four separate fields, they’ve managed to keep from having to do that. “Once it starts raining regularly again I think people are going to let out a big sigh of relief,” Monica said.


SimplyTim said...


Congrats on the artical.

Nice picture also, and it answers a question I've had for some time.

Don't laugh, but the quote on your blog referring to the holocaust left me wondering if you were a spry and energetic 80 year old woman, or if it was simply a quote which you wanted to share.

By the way, where did that quote come from?


farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

LOL Never thought of that Tim!
I don't remember where I found that quote. Though I must admit--- it completely sums up how I would always like to address life's problems. It reminds me each time I read it how the things that upset me can be very trivial compared to what others have and are going through.
I think I like it! :-D

Cheryl said...

Very interesting article.
It's nice to finally see you (and hear your voice)!

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Now everyone knows me, but I don't know anyone! That's o.k---it's kind of fun not knowing what people sound like or look like. You can be anyone---even Tim's spry 80 year old lady! :-D

El said...

Great press! Isn't this surprising? I mean, in your own minds, you aren't doing anything THAT unusual, but people seem to want to write about it. (I got some attention lately too and it really surprised me. I mean, really. It's not like we're doing something that outlandish!)