WHAT WE DO
We are proud to say we are farmers! We do your typical farmer things like fixing fences and water lines, trimming hooves, feeding dogs, cutting wood, taking animals to market, and driving tractors. But we also do a bunch of things you probably don't associate with farming.
The health of the pastures where we graze our cattle and sheep and the wooded areas where our pigs live, is critical to the farm productivity, the quality of our meat and, ultimately, to the success of our business. If our land is sick, so is our farm.
When we're working in the fields, the interconnected nature of this system is obvious. When it is too dry or too hot we can see it in our grasses, and in the health of our livestock, and finally in ourselves. We have realized that as we improve one aspect of our operation it cannot be at the cost of another. Reinforcing the natural interconnected systems that exist on our farm is a basic principle of what we do. In the face of climate change, we are even more convinced of this tenent. With climate change we are witnessing an increase in extremes. We strongly believe that the solution lies in a healthy ecosystem. Agriculture that is rich in biodiversity, with healthy carbon rich soils is more resilient to these extremes. In fact a regenerative farm that can absorb carbon effectively can be one of the most effective tools for tackling climate change.
In order to improve the quality of our farm we spend a significant amount of time and energy developing comprehensive land management strategies. This process starts with gathering data. We document rainfall, plant and wildlife species, livestock health and soil quality. Through this data we are better able to understand what we are seeing when we're working out in the fields. We have focused our efforts in improving the overall biodiversity and carbon retention of the farm.
What does this mean?
We have dedicated just over a hundred acres to fields for livestock grazing (cattle and sheep). An additional 5 acres of woodlands have been cleared of undergrowth for our pig operation. We have 5 acres of conservation corridors where we do not regularly run any livestock. Our conservation corridors are mixed habitat areas full of wildflowers, grasses, and local tree species. They are designed to create habitat for birds and other local wildlife, increasing the bio-diversity on our farm. We have re-wilded several wetland areas around the farm and have built wetland habitat in response to increased annual rainfall. We use solar power from the solar farm on the roof of our barn. We mow as little as possible, and do controlled burns whenever it makes sense. Our livestock fertilize our fields so we don't have to. We do not use fungicides, or insecticides. Our herbicide use is minimal, focused on the control of aggressive invasive plants. We use a four-wheeler whenever we can instead of a truck. Finally, we keep our streams clean by keeping our livestock away from them.
Since we got back in business in 2014, we have seen remarkable improvements in the health of our farm. Monoculture overgrazed fields have become rich with a wide mix of grasses and legumes. Erosion that used to cut through our land has been replaced by wetlands alive with insects, reptiles and amphibians. Wild species we thought were lost are returning to the habitats we've created. Perhaps most importantly, our farm is retaining more carbon then it was in the past.
We have a "flerd", that's farmer talk for a sheep flock and a beef herd put together. We run our cattle and sheep together because we've found that it is an effective tool for improving our grazing and reducing parasite loads. The two species work symbiotically. Cattle like eating things that sheep don't, and vice versa. Additionally, many parasites can only live in one or the other species' digestive systems. This means that the stomachs of sheep are dead ends for some cattle parasites, and vice versa.
We use rotational grazing techniques!
What does this mean?
It means we move our "flerd" and drove (group of pigs) frequently.. ev ery day or two. With temporary fencing we section off our fields and wooded areas into small sub-fields. The flerd/drove spends a short intensive in each sub-field. This concentration of grazing has several benefits. The livestock compete to get the best calories, which means they eat everything. The concentrated hoof traffic tramples the remaining vegetation and breaks up the ground they've grazed, preparing it for manure the livestock leave behind. The next day we move the animals to the next sub-field and the process continues. The result of these small grazing paddocks is that following their use they get an extended rest period to regenerate. In the case of our flerd, the grazed field won't be grazed again for at least 30 days. Rotational grazing prevents the concentration of manure/nutrients in one area; and it allows for fields to rest longer, preventing the damaging effects of overgrazing.
When it comes to the breeds of our animals, we like the occasional odd-ball. Our sheep are Dorpers and Katadhins. They are hair sheep which means they do not have wool. So we don't have to shear. Both breeds are resistant to parasites and are fast growing.
Our cattle are Angus and Red Devon crosses. Our beef, with a mature weights of around 1000 lbs., are well suited to grassfed operations. Both breeds are adaptive and hearty. Their small statures mature well on grass diets, without the need for supplemental grain feed. Plus the red and black mix looks really cool in the field.
Our feeder pigs are heritage breeds originally from England. They include crosses of Tamworths, Old Spots, Large Blacks and Berkshires. These breeds are excellent foragers, well adapted to finding calories in wooded areas. Ancestors of some of the first domesticated swine in Europe, our pigs have been around for a very long time.
Finally we have a couple chickens for fresh eggs, and two Anatolian Shepherds that guard the farm from nearby predators (mountain lions, black bears, coyotes, fox, and eagles and other predatory birds).
Our farm is GMO and growth hormone FREE! We are Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World!
Most of our livestock is processed by Blue Ridge Meats, in Front Royal Virginia. Just a short 30 minute drive away, we're able to keep transport stress for our animals to a minimum. We take livestock to market once a month- give or take. It is usually just a handful of animals. Once at Blue Ridge Meats, they are slaughtered and butchered by hand. A couple of days later we pick up all the frozen cuts and bring them back to freezers in our on-site farm store.
We believe in a local food economy. So we do not ship. We want you to know us, know the farm, and know your meat. It is through community supported agriculture that we can rebuild the strength and resilience of local food economies.
You can either buy your cuts here (online) or you can place an order by reaching out to us via phone or email. We'll prep everything so it is ready for you whenever you want to swing by the farm to pick it up. If you want to get to know us better, or you have questions about our process please feel free to schedule a visit. We'll take you on a tour of the farm and explain what we do.