While the growing season is winding down here in South Florida, up in Ocoee just outside of Orlando, Lake Meadow Naturals is alive with activity!
“Spring is a very busy time not only for ducklings, but for lots of animals that are being born and hatching,” explains farmer Dale Volkert. “We had 18 goats born the last 2 weeks, over 100 geese, 240 turkeys, guinea hens, 2 baby calves, let alone the batch after batch of ducklings. And ducklings are a lot of work when they start to hatch!”
We’ve been working with Dale and his team at Lake Meadow since fall of 2010 when we fell in love with his farm after a visit to shoot Michael’s television pilot, The Local Table. Michael’s Genuine has been sourcing product from him for ever since; what began with heritage eggs including chicken, duck, guinea fowl, and goose has grown to include poultry such as broilers, fryers, and poussin — even goat. We’ve placed an order for 18 ducks for SBRAGA Pizzeria, our Harry’s pop-up on May 22. A lot can happen in a month!
“Ducks take about 28 days to develop inside the egg. Their egg tooth lets them cut around and through the shell and then push themselves out,” Dale continues. We then move them to a brooder, each holding 400 chicks which keeps them at 95 degrees and introduces them to water and an all natural diet of grains and vitamins. We reduce the temperature 5 degrees each week until we get to room temperature and watch them closely. They drink a lot of water or should I say they like to play in a lot of water and they want more than they need but that’s just how ducks are. We then move them outside into duck hotels which we call them where they have more space to run around in and start to really enjoy playing in the water and enjoying life. Once they get about 50% of their feathers on we let the doors open and they explore pastures and open spaces as they grow up into adult ducks.”
The Lake Meadow pasture is a beautiful thing. It now plays home to 400 turkeys and 100 geese, baby ducks, and they even had to get donkeys. They work wonders to control wild predators like coyotes, foxes and bobcats.
“We took the turkeys and geese
over to Jeremy and Heather’s farm who are farm partners of ours to raise them until harvest,” Dale shares. “They have 15 acres and took a pair of our geese and the moment the babies drove in they were curious and adopted them as if they were their own. Geese are wonderful parents and very protective of even adopted chicks.”
Since we visited, the farm has updated its infrastructure, too, adding hydroponic gardens and several new chicken barns, three near the local farmers market and some up by the hydroponic gardens and orchard. We can’t want to get back there! For more information on Dale’s eggs, please find him featured in the current issue of Edible South Florida magazine.