Our farm is highly diversified, grass based, and organic practice. We intensively graze our Jersey dairy cows and our flock of Katahdin sheep, and pasture our rabbits, heritage turkeys, ducks, chickens, and pigs. We believe that these systems allow us to be better stewards of our soils and watershed; of our animals’ health and well being, and ultimately, the health of our customers and the community we feed.
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This may be an unusual thing to hear from meat farmers, but we believe we should be eating less meat than the average American. We also believe that the meat we eat should be coming from perennial pastures, rotational grazing systems, and be slaughtered as close to home as possible; and we should be honoring the animals we eat by eating nose to tail, and taking advantage of all the nutritionally dense foods that animals can provide, like stock from bones, offal, and tougher, less well known cuts. In 2018, the average American ate 222 lbs of red meat and poultry; most of that meat is coming from CAFOs, or confinement systems. For perspective, that is one and a half of our family share sizes for a single person. Below are some ways we are striving to have a net positive impact through our farming practices, aside from changing our diets to include a variety of nutritious foods and plant based proteins alongside our high quality meat.
We graze in an intensive rotational system designed to keep animals healthy, soil covered with vegetation at all times, and pasture plants diverse and robust. Grazing animals rotationally on degraded soils (80% of the land we are accessing at the moment) builds soil carbon, and is often either net carbon neutral or carbon negative, depending on the system and type of animal. The efficacy of grazing as a way of increasing soil carbon in soils that have been improved is debatable, and is contentious among soil scientists. We may have to shift growing practices when our soil is restored to its optimal condition.
Our slow manure composting systems retain nutrients, especially highly soluble or volatile nutrients, return carbon to the soil, and improve soil health and biodiversity. We commit to spreading compost only when the ground is unfrozen, and before a pasture growth burst when nutrients can be used by plants, rather than moving down the soil profile, into groundwater or waterways.
Using the whole animal (bones, offal, 'low cost' cuts) in our CSA mix means we have to grow fewer animals overall to supply more people with nutritious food. Food fads like hangar steak (one per cow!), or the incredible popularity of bacon over the last decade, often means there is less of a market for the rest of the animal. Eating whole animals, if we are going to eat meat, keeps us in sync with the reality of eating animals as food.
Slaughtering our poultry on farm means we are not trucking those animals, which results in a lower carbon load, and lower stress, for those birds. Our poultry raised in tractors also supplement up to 50% of their diet on grasses, legumes and forbs in our pastures, which means we are purchasing less cultivated grain, and providing a product that is both more nutritious and honestly, tastier.
We sell our milk in reusable glass jars that we wash on return, minimizing waste for our dairy. Our cows move their own manure during the grazing season, rather than needing to have it scraped and spread through mechanical (and fossil fuel-burning) means.
It can feel incredibly, and surprisingly, difficult to make decisions that feel ethical in our complex world. We hope that a little peek into why we make some of the farming decisions that we do helps you feel more informed. If you have questions, please don't hesitate to ask!