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Kelly and Abi Criswell started down the path to becoming pasture-based farmers because they wanted to eat fresh, nutrient-dense foods. After growing out of a small backyard garden, in 2010 they bought a five-acre farm in Penrose, Colorado, and began scaling up production. Judging that their pastures were best suited to cattle, they bought a dairy cow for milk and a flock of mixed breed laying hens for pastured eggs.
Although Kelly Osman’s birth family (the Furlongs) has raised sheep along the northern California coast for generations, she never expected to end up working as a farmer herself. However, as Kelly puts it, “kids drive the cart once they come along” and before they knew it, Kelly and her husband, Gary, were helping their children to raise small animals in 4-H. While returning to her ranch roots was unexpected, the Osmans embraced the way of life completely. Raising their family on a ranch has exposed Kelly and Gary’s children to an agricultural lifestyle that has been lost to many, and instills a sense of responsibility and compassion that Kelly believes is only possible through working with animals. As they built the kids’ breeding program, the Osmans would invariably have extra animals, which they began offering to local restaurants. When the children moved on to other projects, Kelly assumed the majority of the animal husbandry and began slowly growing their livestock operation to meet the demand for locally produced, high-welfare meat, and their children’s 4-H project turned into a family business.
Although Dru and Scott Ransdell each grew up in suburbia, they both learned an appreciation for nature at a young age—Dru at her grandparents’ old Connecticut farmhouse, and Scott in his Chicago backyard, where he pretended to drive an imaginary tractor and irrigated imaginary crops. From the time they met in California’s Sacramento Valley, they shared a dream of living off the land. In 2001, they acquired their own piece of land where they began to produce their own food through trial and error.
Nestled in the lush foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, Nehalem River Ranch is 100 acres of pasture and forest along the banks of the river from which it takes its name. The area is home to herds of elk and deer, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout and salmon, which migrate through the Nehalem River. In addition to managing the ranch’s domesticated species, the ranch’s owners, Hilary Foote and Jared Gardner, see care of the river and the riparian areas between the river and their pastures as central to their work as famers and stewards of this diverse and beautiful piece of land.
While he was in school, Les Yates spent many enjoyable summers helping his grandparents on their farm in southwest Ontario, and subsequently spent most of his working career trying to figure out how to get back to the land. In 1993, Les and his wife, Chris, were finally able to purchase 327-acre Lemieux Creek Ranch in the Bulkley Valley in northwest British Columbia, named after Eric Lemieux, the first French Canadian to settle on the land in 1904.
Daniel and Patrick McDougall’s ancestors first settled in western Nevada in the 1860s after leaving the South during the Civil War, selling cattle to the Union Army and silver miners at the Comstock Lode—the first major discovery of silver ore in the country. Today, Daniel and Patrick continue their family’s ranching tradition as fourth generation cattle ranchers, headquartered in Fallon, Nevada.
Michaelene and J. Michael Griffin run Primetime Farms in Pahrump, Nevada, about 60 miles west of Las Vegas on the California-Nevada border. When they bought the property 20 years ago, they began raising thoroughbred race horses and warmblood sport horses, but expanded to other livestock after taking a course on biodynamic gardening that included the integration of animals. Now, in addition to vegetable production, Primetime Farms’ 10 acres is home to Certified AWA laying hens, meat chickens, and geese.
In 2009, Debra Jantzi and her nine children turned their hobby of producing their own cow’s milk into a source of income when they moved from the Willamette Valley in Oregon to the Treasure Valley of western Idaho, where they initially rented a small dairy. Although the family had been milking animals since 1997, Debra admits the move to commercial milk production was a steep learning curve: “We had no idea how a commercial dairy worked or what we were getting ourselves into!” With access to an old dairy facility–and the help and advice of a local retired dairyman–they were able to obtain their license in May 2010, allowing them to provide customers with the same high-quality fresh milk the family had been enjoying for years.
In 2013, when Daniel Lee and Julie Sikkink’s children were grown and gone, the couple decided to put their passion for good food into practice by purchasing Wingham Farms in the Willamette Valley. The 100-acre property allowed both Daniel and Julie to get back to their farming roots: Julie is a fifth generation farmer and had always dreamt of having a farm of her own; Daniel had worked his way through university in England by laboring on farms.
By Animal Welfare Approved
| February 27, 2015
In 2011, Marie Hoff began calling farmers and asking them if she could come visit their farms. She had no experience working on farms, but she knew that she liked to work outside, she liked working at farmers’ market stands, and she liked farmers. She started working where she could, learning from experience and research, and very quickly realized her interests lay with sheep and fiber.