Mike and Elizabeth Lofrano run the 211-acre Circle Star Ranch, nestled in a secluded valley just south of Roseburg, Oregon. Elizabeth’s farming expertise originates from her childhood, when she raised sheep, pigs, beef and dairy cattle, chickens and rabbits on a 180-acre ranch in southern Oregon. Having lived through the Great Depression, Elizabeth’s grandparents taught her to be self-sufficient and she has carried on this tradition at Circle Star Ranch, where the Lofranos produce the majority of the products they consume.
Since the early 1980s, Mike and Elizabeth have been dedicated to raising the finest sustainable food products. Circle Star Ranch is a mix of hillside grazing, with some areas replanted with trees for timber, and lush pastures, with two seasonal creeks and a few large ponds. Their water supply and plentiful pastures allows them to raise AWA-certified pigs and laying hens on pasture year around. “Raising our animals in the most natural and safe environment possible is our highest priority,” explains Mike. “Managing our animals out on pasture is the only thing we are interested in. When animals are confined they seem not only less happy, but tend to have a much higher rate of diseases. Our animals run and play every day, building lean, healthy bodies that result in the best, most nutritious products for our customers.”
To ensure that they have the highest-quality products and animals that are well-adapted to their particular ranch, Mike and Elizabeth have focused on sourcing the best livestock genetics for pasture-based management. For their pigs, they settled on a cross of Berkshire and Gloucestershire Old Spot breeds for their taste and excellent foraging ability. Observing their laying hens over time taught them that lighter-colored birds were more attractive to predators. When they switched to Black Australorps as their main laying breed, predation pressure dropped to nearly insignificant levels.
In addition to a careful breeding program, Elizabeth and Mike pay close attention to their animals’ feed. They made an effort to eliminate all genetically modified ingredients—including corn, soy and alfalfa—in their pig and chicken feed. Both species are raised on pasture where they are able to roam and forage, exhibiting their natural behaviors. In addition to the benefit to their animals’ improved welfare and a superior products, their pigs and chickens have a symbiosis—the chickens clean up weed seeds and insect larvae after the pigs, while the pigs’ presence helps to deter predators.
The Lofranos pursued AWA certification because they believe independent verification of their practices can give peace of mind to potential customers. “When we read about the AWA guidelines, we realized that we already conformed to 99 percent of them,” explains Mike. “Since we often are asked by potential customers about how we raise our animals and how they are treated, we thought that having an independent group certify what we do would make those customers that cannot come to the ranch themselves a little more comfortable that they are buying from a ranch that cares about the welfare of the animals we raise.”
The Lofranos are very grateful for the indispensable help of their daughter, Carly, who has been “taming” their baby pigs since she was five. The couple hopes to make the ranch completely sustainable one day—a lofty goal that will require more years of work and investment, but which they continue to work toward.
Circle Star Ranch eggs and pork is available direct from the farm from 11a.m. to 4p.m. daily or at local farmers’ markets. Pork is also available at retail locations in the area. Visit www.AnimalWelfareApproved.org/product-search to find locations. For more information about the ranch, visit http://circlestarranch.info or contact Mike at email@example.com or (541) 679-0952.