One of the comments we get a lot as we try to describe our dream to others is “You can’t make money farming these days”. Of course this comment comes equally from those who have no clue what they are talking about to those who are intimately aware of the challenges of farming in today’s food system… I guess it wouldn’t be a stereotype if it wasn’t at least part true. I’ll get into the money side of things in a different post, but hearing that comment always makes me want to detail why our vision is so different than conventional agriculture’s approach, and why I think that vision “clicks” with those who are seeking to source their food from somewhere different than the massive, inhumane, adulterated, ultra-processed, non-nutrative, industrial system.
The centerpiece of our farm will be ruminants, those amazing animals that have been designed with a 4-part stomach uniquely suited to turning vegetation into protein. I’ve always loved cows, ever since growing up on my family’s hobby farm where we always had a couple milking cows for home use. Our herd will be bred in mid-summer, calve in the spring, and the beefers will finish out on grass alone after approximately 1.5-2 years. I’ve recently come around to the idea of adding sheep as well, for several reasons. Cow and sheep parasites are mutually exclusive, meaning what affects one species does not affect the other. You can increase stocking density without a corresponding increase in available pasture (they eat different types of grasses), and I believe there is a growing market for grass-fed lamb. We will use portable fencing with step-in posts to allow for maximum flexibility of paddock size, and will move the animals daily to a new section of fresh grass.
We will have a flock of laying hens, housed at night in a portable structure for their safety and free-ranged a couple days behind the ruminant herd rotation during the day. The idea here is to time the arrival of the laying flock with the development of the fly and pest larvae… a veritable smorgasbord of delight to a chicken! They will assassinate the pest population, which is a wonderful source of nutrition for them, will spread out the manure piles with all of their scratching, and will add their own version of fertilizer to the pastures. Oh right, and they will lay healthy, delicious eggs to eat and sell as well as being downright tasty themselves!
Pork might be my favorite meat to eat, specifically bacon. Our hogs will be raised in large paddocks that will include some pasture and a large section of woods, where they will get a good amount of their nutrition (and flavor) from acorns, nuts, tubers and roots. They will be allowed full range within their paddock, and will farrow (give birth) naturally on their own. It is important to us that all of our animals live a good life, complete with plenty of space to roam, fresh air, non-GMO feed if required and the ability to graze, root, and scratch to their heart’s content. We view ourselves as stewards of creation and caretakers of the animals entrusted to us, believing that this method of raising livestock not only honors God but produces healthy food that is better for us.
A multitude of other animals and products will round out our farm’s offering, to include heritage-breed turkeys, rabbits (maybe), honey, maple syrup, firewood, and anything else we can think of! You get the picture, our vision is for a small-scale, family-based, grass-fed, multi-species farm that capitalizes on the concept of synergy among species and is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. A farm that is the antithesis of the industrial agribusiness model that so many folks plug themselves into daily for their substandard sustenance. A farm like your grandparents remember with fondness, back before being a locavore was cool, it was just the way things were done.