By Andrew Gunther
| January 20, 2012
Ask any farmer to list his or her major challenges and the issue of who will take over the farm when it’s time to retire will no doubt feature in the top 10. According to government statistics about 40% of U.S. farmers are 55 years old and up, raising real concerns about exactly who is going to fill their shoes. The sad fact is that there are fewer young people getting involved in farming than ever, and many young people see no future in the family farm. As a result, countless family farms are being bought up and absorbed by larger industrial operations. In my opinion this is one of the greatest tragedies of our generation.
This is why Shelby Grebenc of Broomfield, CO, is such an inspiration. Shelby is founder of “Shelby’s Happy Chapped Chicken Butt Farm,” located about 20 miles outside of Denver. And at just 12 years-old, Shelby is also the youngest Animal Welfare Approved farmer to date. Shelby represents a beacon of hope for the future. Her dedication to high-welfare farming is an inspiration to all of us – regardless of age.
Ashbourne Farms raises Animal Welfare Approved beef cattle in the rolling hills of Kentucky. The farm is owned by Ina Brown Bond and her son, Austin Musselman. Ashbourne Farms is nearly 1600 acres and is at the headwaters of Harrods Creek. The farm has several historic farmhouses and cabins dating back to the early 1800′s, and other features which qualify it for the Historic Register. With the help of Farm Manager Clarence Mays, and Assistant Manager and Head of Vegetable Production Derek Kelley, Ina, Austin, and Austin’s wife Layla run Ashbourne Farms “the way you would if you were raising food for your own family.” Austin explains, “We raise our animals on pasture, free of antibiotics and added hormones, to ensure that the wholesome foods you put on your table are the highest quality protein you can provide.”
Together Nate and Lou Ann Robinson, their children Jacob, Jamie, Lindsay and Renee and their families raise Animal Welfare Approved hogs (Duroc/Berkshire Breed and some Large White) at Jake’s Country Meats in Cassopolis, MI. All four children are involved in the farm in some way, shape or form. “It’s a family farm so everyone is involved in some way, even if they don’t want to be!” Lou Ann says with a laugh.
Together Luke, Jesse, and Jay Meerman and their mother Sue, two sisters, and wives raise Animal Welfare Approved dairy cattle at Grassfields Cheese in Coopersville, MI. Luke said they are all very proud to be a true family farm. In fact, they are a fourth generation farm in operation since 1882! 23 years ago the Meerman family starting intensively grazing their cattle again and 10 years ago they started making cheese with their now 85 Holstein/Jersey/Normandy cows.
Anna Hodson Stofsky and Adam Stofsky raise Animal Welfare Approved hens at Ticketyboo Farm in Ghent, NY. They left their urban life in NYC to farm, grow vegetables and raise hens and started Ticketyboo in 2011. Starting with just 10 hens the flock has now expanded to over 65 and is composed of a mixture of several different breeds of laying hens. The hens range freely on pasture all year round supplementing their diet of pasture plants and bugs with local certified organic feed. In the fall and winter the chickens gain access to the vegetable garden to eat up leftovers and leave some fertilizer for next year. This year Adam and Anna plan to start breeding all of their replacement stock and building a mobile coop to increase and better manage the pasture available to the chickens.
By Andrew Gunther
| January 6, 2012
Forgive me if you don’t see me jumping for joy at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recent announcement that it intends to limit the use of a specific group of antibiotics in livestock production.
For while the FDA’s decision to curb the use of cephalosporins in food animal production beginning April 2012 has been hailed as positive step in the right direction, I’d say it’s more a shuffle forwards – and a very reluctant one at that.
“We believe this is an imperative step in preserving the effectiveness of this class of important antimicrobials that takes into account the need to protect the health of both humans and animals,” pronounced Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods, in the FDA press release. Now, as regular readers of my post will already know, I am passionate about the urgent need to curb the misuse of antibiotics in intensive farming systems. So what’s my problem with the FDA’s recent actions? After all, surely this is good news?