Over the past six years I’ve called our beautiful farm business many things, sustainable and regenerative being the two most popular.
But every time I’ve said those words, a little voice in my head has popped up that says, “Don’t forget about those mono-cropped grains.” Because although our animals were grazing and nourishing beautiful green pastures, our pigs, chickens, and turkeys have been relying on mono-cropped grains to grow and thrive. And mono-cropped grains are not sustainable or regenerative the way that they’re currently grown. The soil is dying, dead zones are being created in the oceans, the birds and the bees are dying. And so, here begins are list:
- Transitioning from annual systems to perennial systems: Annual crop systems like growing grains for animals to eat requires tilling the land, and often spraying toxic chemicals on the land. We want to farm with nature, not against her. Since we’re part of nature, if we’re farming against her, we are farming against ourselves.
Raising perennial pastures, planting trees into our pasture system, nourishing the soil with the animals in a system that takes care of itself, that is what makes sense to us.
- Grain Prices- Grain prices went up 50% in 2020 and went up again in 2021. I don’t know what happened to them this year because we stopped raising grain animals and I can’t even tell you the relief that has brought me. Our cows and sheep can thrive solely on our beautiful pastures and we can rest easy knowing exactly where their food comes from and how it was grown.
- We want to be the best- We’ve eaten a lot of our meat over the years and would agree that it’s all pretty excellent. But raising four different species of animals is stressful and we don’t get to spend the time or resources we’d like on any particular animal. We are so excited to be able to really focus on raising the most incredible beef and lamb of our dreams.
- We have so much grass! We purchased our dream farm last year and with it came 100 beautiful acres of perennial pastures. This is enough to build the grass farm of our dreams.
- We want to be self-sufficient- There was a point in 2020 when we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get grain for our animals. We never want to have that feeling again. By raising grass-fed beef and lamb that we can feed on our land, we know we can provide for them no matter what.
Yes, we’ll miss eating our pork chops and bacon too, but I am SO excited to be in service raising the most incredible grass-fed beef and lamb of my dreams.
Here are some things I’m excited to delv into to:
- Harvesting nettle and other herbs and drying it for cows and sheep in the winter. If you know nettle, you know it’s packed with nutrients, and we probably have about ½ an acre of nettle spread around our farm and fields. Cows don’t eat it fresh because of the stings, but they’ll gobble it up in the winter if we dry it for them. More nutrients for them means more nutrients for you!
- Obsessing over genetics- I can’t wait to delve more into genetics to bring you the most tender and delicious grass-fed beef on the planet. And I’ve got a good feeling about this Devon/British White cross that I have in my head.
- Grazing- Grass-fed beef can have a reputation for not being tough and that’s because people are not obsessing enough about their pastures. In order for optimum grazing conditions we want the grass to be in the vegetative state when most of the nutrients are in the stem.
Once the seed starts developing, the plant sends all the nutrients from the stem into the seed, making the stems mostly stalky and unpalatable. This means the animals aren’t gaining weight as fast as they should be and they need to be gaining weight steadily every day of their life for tender, marbleized beef.
There are endless ways to obsess over raising grass-fed beef and lamb, and I want to obsess over every single one!
Silvopastured Beef and Lamb- If you’ve been following along, you probably know we planted about 300 trees into our first silvopasture system this year. As we focus solely on beef and lamb we’re planting more trees every year. Trees will be chosen based on their ability to grow in the different soil types on the farm and their benefit to our animals. Benefits could include shelter from wind and sun and nutrition from the nuts and pods the trees drop.
As I’m completely nerding out on this list, I am getting more and more excited to bring this beef and lamb into your kitchen to nourish your body and your soul. I want you to sit around the dinner table with people you love and tell them about the trees these cows ate. About the nettles that we harvested and fed them in the winter. About the magic and the love that went into this beef.
Thank you for stepping with us into this next exciting chapter!
-Katie and Ben