Family farming proves to be adventure in working, learning

AFP Correspondent

CRAIG COUNTY, Va. (Nov. 22, 2016) — A trio of dark domestic turkeys set the Thanksgiving season scene on a family farm here in mid-November as they grazed toward a woodlot of oak trees with acorns awaiting them.
Andy and Cathy Sizer are the owners of a five-acre farmstead on a slope here in the mountains bordering West Virginia.
It’s a pasture-based operation where they work to raise various protein sources and vegetables to sustain their family. They also home-school their two children, using their animals to teach them about farming and responsibility.
The Sizer farm is something of a dual operation as Andy works with his father and sister to run a conventional livestock farm.
That farm consists of 435 acres of land, Cathy said.
Buildings, pens and pastures around the family’s home are filled with a variety of animals. Her milk goats seem to bring Cathy a lot of joy as she works with them.
While she talked about the farm she was busy mixing their feed by hand and moving them to milking stands. She also milked them by hand while they ate.
The milk is used to make cheese for her family.
She uses an electric milking machine to milk the family’s Jersey cow that provides milk for the family.
In addition to a varied flock of goats the family has some hogs, chickens and meat rabbits.
Another animal is Clovis, a pure white mule who ambles among the other animals enjoying his status as a non-meat animal.
Care of the rabbits is one of the chores assigned to their children, Angus who was celebrating his 11th birthday last week and his eight-year-old sister Elena.
As the children fed the rabbits they explained the merits of their rabbits that provide meat for the family.
Angus said rabbit is one of his favorite foods while Elena admired the softness of their fur.
Cathy said that the family’s more conventional livestock farm includes a herd of 55 brood cows and a flock of 35 ewes. The animals graze in hillside pastures and eat hay made in the more level fields, she said.
They sell the calves from the cows and the wool from the sheep.
The farm also has some timberland which enables the Sizers to harvest some trees from time to time, she noted.
Andy Sizer has another occupation besides farming. His business is eliminating pests, from predators such as coyotes to squirrels and snakes.