Joseph Baxley is the fourth generation of his family to farm the 80 acres where he and his wife, Melissa, raise Animal Welfare Approved hair sheep and hog breeding stock with the help of their children, Jonathon and Megan. Situated outside of Samson, Alabama, JMB Farms has been in Baxley family for almost 100 years.
The timberland and mixed pastures of JMB Farm provide ideal habitat for the Large Black hogs and Katahdin hair sheep that Melissa and Joseph raise. The Large Black hog is a critically endangered breed, according to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. “We raised our hogs out on pasture where they graze, much like cows and other livestock,” Joseph explains. “Unlike other breeds, they get most of their nutrition from pasture. Their diet is less than 10 percent grain and they grow slower than commercial hogs, producing pork that is deep red, tender and marbled.” Katahdin sheep, which have a coat of hair rather than wool and do not require shearing, produce mild, lean meat efficiently on pasture. Both breeds tend to browse as well as graze and have access to acorns and pecans to supplement their diets in the fall. In addition, they are both very calm and docile and easy to manage.
Joseph and Melissa sought certification with AWA because, they say, “it assures our customers that we are responsible stewards of our land and our livestock.” Raising their animals on pasture according to the high welfare standards required by AWA is central to their farm operation, benefiting both the health of their animals and land. Despite their high standards, the Baxleys are always looking for ways to improve these systems, reducing chemical and grain use and instituting more responsible management. In addition to this ongoing work, the Baxleys have begun the process of converting their planted pine acreage to a silvopasture system, which combines forestry and grazing in a mutually beneficial way.
JMB Farms sheep and pig breeding stock is sold directly from the farm. Visit http://www.jmbfarms.com/ for more information and call for availability.