"transparency facilitates accountability, which is the essence of integrity" - joel salatin
What do your animals eat?
Only the good stuff! We are a pasture-based farm. This means that all of our animals live in forage-rich environments, all the time.
We raise a limited number of ruminant herbivores (i.e. cows, goats, or sheep). These animals are 100% fed and finished on grass (and bushes, in the case of goats). No grain. We primarily focus on raising chickens and pigs, which are omnivorous animals with high energy and protein requirements. They cannot be “100% grass fed.” All of our chickens live on grass pasture and are rotated to ensure a constant supply of fresh forage (grass, bugs, etc). Our pigs live either on grass pasture or in mature oak forests and are also rotated to ensure a constant supply of fresh forage (grass, bugs, roots, small woodland plants, etc). Our chickens and pigs are also supplemented with a certified organic grain-based feed. This may include corn, wheat, and/or milo for energy, and soy for protein. Click here for more info on soy and corn in livestock feeds. We also supplement with fresh organic vegetables and fruits. Feed supplements are provided “free choice,” which means that the animals always have the option to forage.
Do your animals receive any GMO or non-organic feed items?
No. Certified organic feeds are by nature non-GMO, and also do not contain any ingredients grown with synthetic pesticides, fungicides, etc. Our pastures have never been treated with pesticides or fertilizers, other than the animals’ own manure.
I see a lot of farms advertising as “non-GMO, but not organic”… what’s the difference?
Livestock feeds labeled only as “non-GMO” usually contain ingredients grown with pesticides, herbicides, and/or fungicides that are objectionable. That is why we only use certified organic feed supplements, even though they are more expensive. We also don’t use antibiotics… a “non-GMO” claim says nothing about a farm’s use of antibiotics, or pasture for that matter.
It's also important to understand that non-GMO substitutes for corn and soy (for example, wheat and peanut meal), unless certified organic, are grown with the same pesticides (for example, glyphosate) as their GMO counterparts. Pesticides bioaccumulate in animal tissues and are also found in body fluids like breast milk and urine. Scientific testing can detect pesticide residues much more readily than it can detect traces of GMOs. Is "non-GMO but not organic" really what you are looking for as a consumer?
How much outdoor or pasture access do your animals have?
Our animals live outdoors, on pasture or in woodlands, all the time. They never leave the pasture or forest and are never locked away from it, even at night.
How does that compare with “organic” and “free range” standards for outdoor or pasture access?
It doesn’t. The organic “pasture rule” is not applied/enforced for chickens and pigs. Commercial organic and “free range chickens” typically have access only to a dirt yard or concrete porch. “Organic” pigs have access to an outdoor concrete pad or dirt run and otherwise live in commercial hog barns with a softer floor.
How many square feet of space do each of your animals get?
Packing animals so densely that “feet” is a useful unit of measurement typically indicates spaces that are too small to support meaningful amounts of forage. Our pastures are measured in acres. We typically keep around 100 chickens per acre of pasture and 5 pigs per acre of forest. Our animals currently rotate over about 25 acres.
What’s all this fuss about “rotation”?
There’s not nearly enough fuss, in our opinion! Other than grass and other forage, rotation is THE most important feature of a pasture-based production system. You’ve probably heard of over-grazing being a problem with cattle. Chickens and pigs are harder on a pasture than cows… they forage differently. And they tend to congregate at certain times of day around a “hub,” for example laying hens around their nesting boxes, or pigs around their water source and the wallows they create from it. Without rotation, livestock will quickly turn a pasture into a dirt yard, or worse. It is not possible to maintain forage without rotation.
How does a pasture-based farm use rotation?
Most pasture-based farmers rotate their livestock. We rotate our broiler chickens daily, our laying hens weekly or bi-weekly, and our pigs bi-weekly or monthly (though we should really do it more often). That means we also have to rotate their “hubs” - nest boxes, roosting bars, water sources, supplement feeders. “Hub” infrastructure that rotates is often on wheels or sleds. Occasionally a farm can pull off a true pasture-based system using a fixed hub (i.e. barns) and rotating their pasture around the barn. This is rare, and very difficult to do well. Usually barn or shed-based farms end up with dirt yards rather than pasture, which is still nicer than confinement for the animals but doesn’t result in the nutrient-density or ecological benefits of a true pasture-based system.
So how much of this “rotation” is required for “free range” and “organic” operations?