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.