When she was 10, while most children are asking their parents for allowance money and believe that eggs come from the grocery store, Shelby Grebenc was soliciting her grandmother for a loan of $1000 to start her own pasture-raised egg business. Shelby and her parents live on four acres in Broomfield, Colorado, 20 miles outside of Denver. She began caring for laying hens when she was just 6-years old. “Dad was trying to teach me to be an adult,” she says, so he gave her chores—watering, feeding, and letting out the family’s small flock of chickens. In the summer, she loved it. When it was 20oF during Colorado’s winters, she hated it, but that didn’t keep her from learning everything involved in raising hens on pasture and starting her own business selling eggs to help expand the family’s income when her mother, Nancy, who has multiple sclerosis, was in a nursing home.
In the 1940s, Jim Chandler’s parents purchased the land where he grew up and learned to farm with his family. While the Chandlers always had some cattle, the farm mostly produced row crops like cotton and soy beans. Now, the farm’s main feature is its Black Angus beef cattle that produce what Jim calls “as pure beef as you can actually get.”
In the summer of 2010, Leland Gibson visited his father, Harold, on the farm that his grandmother and uncle established in northwestern South Carolina in 1958. After watching his father bailing hay by himself in the summer heat, Leland decided to make a change. He left his city life and career as a mechanical contractor to support the family business.
Many years after swearing off the farm life when she left the family farm for college, and following a career as a nurse, Joyce Keibler and her husband Gary chose to spend their “retirement” as sheep farmers. In 2005 they bought Hemmer Hill Farm outside of Louisville, Kentucky’s Northeast End and began raising Saint Croix sheep. While Joyce’s family had experience with both beef cattle and wool sheep, she preferred the smaller size of sheep. After attending a free class at the University of Kentucky which introduced her to different sheep breeds, she decided on the Saint Croix, a small meat breed with hair rather than wool, known for its resistance to the parasite problems that often plague other breeds.
Alexandra Lake Farm is a small family farm in the hilly country of West Central Florida that raises Animal Welfare Approved meat sheep. Leon Elt and Nataly Ko are transplants from New York City who took a cycling vacation to Florida one freezing December. They loved the area so much they eventually moved south with their daughters, Sonya and Dasha, bought the farm, and began raising sheep in 2007 because they “wanted to eat meat but didn’t want to support factory farming.” Eventually their friends—and later their friends’ friends—wanted some too and, says Leon, and the whole thing “kinda got out of hand. Sheep are pretty addictive.”
Dominique Wong and her business partner, Shelley Keeney, raise Animal Welfare Approved dairy goats at Yellow Goat Farm in Proctorville, Ohio. Although the farm started with a dairy cow, as soon as Dominique bought an Alpine goat for her daughter, the family fell in love with the animal. Now Yellow Goat Farm’s herd of Nubian and Alpine dairy goats produces goat milk soaps and high-quality breeding stock. Their handmade soap is made with their Animal Welfare Approved goat milk and natural ingredients that are gentle yet cleansing, like coconut, olive and palm oils combined with fragrance and essential oils and organic herbs from the farm.
By Andrew Gunther
| October 6, 2011
Have we just witnessed Big Ag’s first legislative strike against labeling of genetically modified foods in one of Big Ag’s home states?
North Carolina Rep. Glen Bradley, an advocate for consumer rights introduced a bill earlier this year to require labeling of genetically modified foods. House Bill 446 sought to require “labeling of food and milk products sold in this state that are or that contain genetically modified food and or milk and milk products from animals that have received recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH).” First introduced on March 23, 2011 it was passed the very next day to the Agriculture Committee where it promptly withered and died. A representative from the office of House Bill 446 co-sponsor Rep. Bill Faison told us that it was highly unlikely to be revived this year.
If I were a cynical person, I would speculate that we have Big Ag to thank for this bill’s death. Why? Because industrial agricultural companies are the only entities that profit from our ignorance of what is in our food.
The breed of goats that Debbie and Aaron Dermid raise, while hard to find in the United States, are a New Zealand meat goat well-adapted to the heat and humidity of North Carolina. The Dermids returned to their home state after Aaron left his career as a state trooper in Florida and received a degree in horticulture. After a lot of research, they decided to raise Kiko goat on their 13 acres in the foothills of the northern part of the state for their very low incidence of parasite problems, slow-growing hooves and maternal instinct. Kiko mothers immediately clean their young and care for them attentively, leading to very low mortality rates. In addition, they have a remarkable ability to conserve water in hot environs.
By Andrew Gunther
| October 3, 2011
One of the things I love most about my job as program director at Animal Welfare Approved is that I get to meet people who are literally changing the world from the ground up. Ron Finley is the perfect example, except that he’s not the typical farmer or rancher whom I usually meet. He grows fruit and vegetables on an urban community garden: a 10ft by 150ft strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb in front of his house in Crenshaw, south central Los Angeles.
I bumped into Finley at the recent Good Food Festival in Santa Monica, CA. We got talking and he told me about his recent successful fight with city bureaucrats over his community garden and the grassroots initiative he’s set up to help urban communities to grow healthy, organic food for themselves. From the outset I liked the man, and we were clearly fighting the same fight, just on very different fronts. His story was as inspirational as anything I had seen or heard before.