Josh & Sarah ~ Lily, Briana, and Rebekah
We both grew up on farms in south central South Dakota, with a variety of animals and crops. After we married, we had a strong desire to farm, but found access to land very competitive. During this time, I, Josh, was working in a commercial swine operation. This experience led me to question the viability of an agricultural system where sickness is normal, antibiotics are routine and becoming ineffective, and neighbors are pitted against one another in competition. In addition, the loss of farmers from the community through ever bigger farms and mechanization concerned both of us. This experience was a catalyst to look for alternative ways to produce food.
Our search led us on a journey to seek more production from the soil through soil health, nutrient cycling, water cycling, and energy flow. These are concepts that we are all taught in grade school, only to move past them in favor of more highly “scientific” approaches to production. Everyone knows if you want more grass, you should fertilize it. Then you should graze it down so that you efficiently utilize the grass produced, and make your return on investment. If you want bigger calves, you need to calve earlier, give them lots of harvested feeds, worm them often, implant them, and make sure that they have no flies so that they will be bigger in the fall. If you want water to flow, tile the land so that it flows to your neighbor, or if you need more of it, put in irrigation to bring more water up from the aquifer. If you want wildlife, leave the land alone, remove the cows, and get paid by the government to do it. The thought that the natural community could be resilient enough to produce and sustain itself was heresy, because everyone knew that production came at a cost.
But why? Before we brought in our European system of farming, these plains abundantly produced a massive diversity of plants, animals, and humans. Nothing went to waste, and no wildlife needed a sanctuary to live in.
From there we found we were not alone, that many other farmers across the country and across the world had these ideas years ago, and had started a counter-industrial movement that produced healthy land, profitable businesses, and thriving communities. But the best part was that consumers were clamoring for their products because of the many health benefits and the superior taste.
So we began to research additional enterprises that would fit in our operation, didn't require as much land as conventional systems, and addressed some of the concerns we had. We found that poultry and pigs made a great addition to our cattle enterprise, as they could use the same land and the species were mutually beneficial. We found that pasture-raised poultry was delicious and nutrient-dense. We also found that we really enjoy raising poultry!
The path has not always been easy, and the learning curve steeper some days than others, but we feel that true social, environmental, and economic change will come from individually integrated systems, rather than industrial segregation.
We believe that our land is best used as perennial pasture. This is because perennial grasses are great for preventing erosion, building healthy soil, and providing wildlife habitat. Because of that, we raise all our animals on pasture as much as possible. We utilize grazing management including frequent animal moves to encourage diversity and vigor in the grasses, and allowing for a variety of habitats for wildlife.
As followers of Jesus, we believe that foremost we must treat each other with love. We believe that we should steward our resources, and look to His patterns for the natural world. While we understand we live in a fallen world, we do not give up hope, and seek to align ourselves with values we find displayed in the Bible.
We feed all locally-sourced, non-GMO grain to our omnivorous animals (pigs, poultry). They do not have a stomach that can digest forage efficiently, so they do not stay healthy and grow on a diet of pure pasture. The pasture supplies green salad, bugs, and plenty of sunshine and fresh air!
Through various health issues, in both of ourselves and those we are close to, we’ve had the opportunity to look at how our food choices can be directly beneficial or detrimental to our health. Because of this first hand knowledge, we have also been made fully aware of the rising problems of chronic health issues as well as the limitations of modern medicine. Through passionate research, we are confident that the manner in which a food is grown impacts its quality and nutrient density. Therefore, we strive to produce food that is healthy and nutritious, as well as delicious.
Healthy food starts with healthy soil. Soil is alive, and a tablespoon of healthy soil can contain well over a billion living organisms. These soil dwelling organisms allow the soil to function by releasing minerals bound in the soil. These minerals are then available to the plant, and once taken up through the roots, are stored in the plant tissues and help the plant fend off diseases and pests. Those stored nutrients then become available when we eat plants grown on healthy soil, or when we eat meat from animals raised on plants grown in healthy soil.
Conversely, if soil becomes unhealthy, it loses many of these living organisms. This problem has cascading effects that go far beyond the loss of mineral nutrients in our food. Erosion, compaction, and loss of soil fertility are symptoms of a broken soil.