What Pigeonhole do you fit in?

Is your farm organic?  Is your farm free-range?  Are you just conventional farmers?

We hear these questions frequently from prospective customers.  Let me answer the question.  No.

I don’t look down on my friends who produce organic products.  I also don’t look down my nose at my conventional farming neighbors, though I do hope they don’t go broke.  I really try not to look down at anyone.  I just do my very best to bring a quality product to market that will enhance the health of my land and the local ecosystem and nourish your family.

Our animals are healthy, happy and normal.  Our pigs and chickens are allowed to be omnivores and given regular doses of fresh grass and forbs.  They are expected to contribute positively to our pasture management to earn their keep.  We don’t have chickens for the sake of having chickens, they are a tool that we use carefully.  Similarly, our goats and cows are expected to be herbivores.  They have to eat a wide variety of plants.  Each of our herbivores perform a different function, either mowing and crushing or trimming.  Both add manure.  The milk we receive is a wonderful but secondary goal.  The primary goal is enhanced microbial activity in our soil leading to increase fertility, dense swards, healthy trees and non-eroding waterways.  Again, we accomplish this by keeping the right animals in the right places for just the right amounts of time and allowing them the opportunity to fully express their unique talents.

So, what do you call that?  How about orchestrated, choreographed, local, respectful, ethical agriculture?

How do you, the customer, verify that we actually do what we say we do?  You come see for yourself.

There is no man behind the curtain.  There is no curtain.

We don’t desire third-party verification at this time mainly because we want relationships with our customers.  We want customers who will come and see how things work here, customers who will ask questions and make suggestions and challenge us to continue improving.  We want customers who will partner with us.

What about GMO-free or organic grains?

We’re just not there yet.  I have been in contact with a vendor who can provide me a complete non-GMO feed solution for my stock.  He’s in Ohio.  At this point, we think it’s better for us to buy corn straight from the field that may be GMO and certainly is not organic but is grown within 100 yards away from our house than to buy grain from hundreds of miles away and uses unknown quantities of petroleum to get here.  We buy local.  I am working to influence the local farmers I buy from to take the next step in environmental and ecological stewardship.  They aren’t there yet.  But, together we’ll get there.

I’m buying local, working with what is available here, now.  I’m doing the very best I can to bring a locally produced, quality product to market that was not only humanely raised but humanely processed.  Not only humanely processed but locally processed.  I don’t ship my birds 200 miles for processing just to bring them back again.  We do the work here.  We use local sawdust, local straw, buy local corn, and buy locally produced animals whenever possible.  Sure, there are things I buy that are not local but I try to buy them from local vendors.  For example, I buy coco coir from a vendor close to where I work, though it probably comes from Sri Lanka.

I’m working to be as local as I can.  I’m also working to make it better.

To be honest we aren’t where we want to be on many of these issues.  Please partner with us, join us on our farm, encourage us to continue working and participate in the local economy.

What about antibiotics?

When a cow or horse gets sick we’ll take steps to heal it using whatever technology is appropriate.  We don’t use subtheraputic levels of antibiotics or medicated feed to help the chickens survive until slaughter date.  Our management style makes that unnecessary and we feel that is an inappropriate use of medication.  Though we have never used antibiotics on our animals, even our willingness to use an antibiotic to heal a sick animal would prevent us from achieving organic certification.  I want to care for my stock.  I’m willing to use whatever means are appropriate.  While I’m unwilling to allow my animals to suffer to strive for an ideal, I take precautions to maximize our animal’s immune system function by providing a varied diet, allowing the animals to select the most palatable and nourishing food and providing minerals free-choice.  We minimize their need for immune response with multi-species grazing and long periods of pasture rest and recovery.

Again the best thing you, the consumer, can do is to come see what’s going on here.  I hesitate to quote Regan but I’m asking you to trust, but verify your farmer.

Where are the goats?

The goats finished cleaning up their pasture and since I have a vacation day today I thought we should go ahead and move them a day early.  They moved to an extra-large area loaded with field pennycress, thistle and Osage orange and honey locust saplings.

This opened a new place for the layers to run and play.  The pasture below looked like the picture above three days ago.

Finally, here’s a shot of the pasture the chickens left behind.  Fewer bugs, even fewer weeds, lots of additional nitrogen and plenty of disturbance.  Now it’s time for rest.

Disturbance and rest.  Disturbance and rest.  The greater the intensity, the longer the recovery period.  Disturbance and rest.  This applies to your own body, not just to grass and dirt.  Did you experience intense physical disturbance today or just rest?


In a perfect world I would move my animals every day.  I would prefer to let them just eat fresh salad every day and escape their manure.  Since I have a town job we just don’t have the time.  The broilers get fresh alfalfa every morning, the cows get fresh grass every morning, everything else moves Wednesday and Saturday.  Again, this is not ideal but we just have to do the best we can.

What am I accomplishing with all this rotation?  I’m knocking back the weeds in the pasture in an effort to give the grass a better start.  What weeds?  These weeds.

Here’s a shot across the pasture as the goats enjoy breakfast.

You can see it’s a weedy mess.  Have we got biodiversity or what?  My pictures don’t capture it but there are any number of elm, hedge, locust saplings as well as multiflora rose coming up in the pasture.  The goats put an end to them all.

We follow the goats with chickens.  They do a good job cleaning things up, scratching through dropped hay, aerating the soil, eating bugs and adding more manure.  Here the chickens have been turned out where the goats were 5 minutes ago.

Let’s go in for a better look at the pasture I just turned chickens into.  You can see the goats were here.

The birds are working hard.

The goats worked their magic but you can see there are still some weeds they left behind.  The chickens will clean that up.  Let’s take a look at the pasture the chickens just moved out of.

Very few weeds left.

But, under the maple and walnut trees there is very little grass.  In fact, it’s mostly chickweed.  You can see a distinct line in the chickweed where the fence prevented the chickens from grazing.

Nobody wants to touch the thistle but the chickens will scratch around and under it.  I’m going to have to chop these manually.  Ugh…

Finally, you should see what the cows do to a pasture in about 18 hours.  These are two 600# heifers grazing 10′ from the road in a place the highway department mowed late last summer.  They are contained in a 24×24 corral so we don’t chance them getting into the road.

Every inch is manure, hoof prints or trampled carbon.  I put a lot of pressure on this spot trying to beat back the brush and increase fertility, diversity and quality.  Once I can graze my cows with the goats we’ll really fix some carbon.

The pigs haven’t been moved yet today.  I’m a little undecided about what section of the pasture I want them to renovate.  Also, I have to get to work and it’s almost 8 already.