Organic

I’m often asked about organic. There is organic and there is Organic, that is to say Big ‘O’ government certified versus the life long practices that existed prior to our beloved leaders imposing regulations designed to serve Big Industry.

I’ve been raising food following organic methods for over 50 years, learning as a young child at my father’s knee. This is the small ‘o’ organic that we live and practice.

No GMO animals or seeds
No synthetic fertilizers in our fields
No pesticides or herbicides on our crops
No routine antibiotic use
No commercial hog feeds
No added hormones
No rBST/rBGH
No crating

There are good people who are in the USDA Certified Organic program who faithfully follow the organic standards set by the government. There are also good people who faithfully follow the original philosophy of organic but are not in the USDA’s certification program. We are in this second group – we do not participate in the USDA Organic Certification – We were organic decades before there was USDA Organic Certification.

I don’t do the USDA Organic certification program because, among other reasons, it allows the claim of government sanctioned Organic Certification even in Confinement Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO a.k.a. Factory Farms) where animals are locked up in small spaces and never experience pasture, fresh air, sunshine and natural behaviors. This is completely unnatural. Consumers get confused by the term Organic being used by confinement operations thinking that this means the chickens or pigs were out on pasture when they were merely being feed organic feed. Big Ag and the USDA have stolen the term Organic with a capital ‘O’ and made it into something that is not what people think of when they think of organic. The result is consumers end up buying Big ‘O’ Organic certified meat that is ‘Organic’ because it was fed Big ‘O’ Organic commercial processed grain feeds but that is not true organic in the original sense of the word nor is it happy chickens or pigs out on pasture which is what people envision. In reality, on those ‘Organic’ CAFOs the animals are kept in cages, in crates, in confinement housing, in pens and feedlots where they don’t get real pasture, they don’t see the sun and they can’t socialize normally and behave naturally. This has diluted, even perverted, the meaning of organic. I personally know big producers who are abusing the term Organic like this which makes me hesitant to participate in the program. Since nobody has ever not bought our pork due to a lack of certification I have decided not to participate in the Big ‘O’ organic certification process at this time.

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We are beyond Organic
Our animals are truly outdoors on our mountain pasture in the fresh air where they can socialize with others of their species and with other species, where they can feel the sun warm their backs and the cool winds ruffle their fur and feathers, where they can drink fresh water from clear mountain springs, swim in the ponds and laze in the brush, where they can graze green pastures and play on the winter snows. We do not ring our pig’s noses nor do we castrate, cut tails or teeth. We don’t use gestation crates or farrowing crates. Our animals are free to move around. They forage in our fields in the warm months which is replaced with hay in their winter season paddocks once snow sets in.

We raise food to higher standards because this is what we feed our children and ourselves. We care what goes into our bodies and only want the best. We care about the conditions and lives of our animals. To get the best meat means treating the animals humanely and giving them happy, healthy lives on pasture.

Our food is
locally produced using
organic methods and
sustainably managed
humanely pastured
diversified livestock
raised outdoors in
fresh air and sunshine
on our Vermont farm’s
mountain pastures.

It’s that simple. We share the bounty of our land and our labors with you.

Wholesome healthy food
from our family farm
to your family’s table.

Here on our blog you will find over two thousands articles and many of thousands of photographs that detail how we live and farm. If you have any questions, just ask. Leave comments anywhere on the blog to get answers or if you prefer, drop us a line. We’re just an email away.

Member:
Vermont Fresh Network,
Rural Vermont
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT)
The Vermont Grass Farmers’ Association,
Vital Communities
PasturedPork.org,
NaturallyRaised.org,
and a NoWeirdStuff.org farm.

Vermont Dept of Ag Wholesale & Retail Licenses
USDA Inspected slaughter

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19 Responses to Organic

  1. Marc W. says:

    I have quick question on the fertilizer you use. Actually, how do u fertilize ur pastures? Do u just use the dung from your animals or do u use lime and such after the animals have left that paddock for greener pastures? And just a side note I am 26 years old and am just getting in to farming…I am reading all I can on everything I can so next year I can start to raise a few pigs on some rented land from my grandfather. I truely appricate everything you’ve done, for us the readers. You have taught me so much already I can’t wait to start myself…thank you.

    • We buy no fertilizer. Instead we plant a lot of legumes such as clover, alfalfa and such. These suck nitrogen down from the sky which fertilizes our fields. All of the plants are sucking down carbon and such from the air and sequestering it in the soil which also fertilizes the fields. The animals dung and urinate out in the fields, cycling about 75% of what they eat back to the pastures making those nutrients available for the plants. Over the years this has gradually improved our fields from the thin, acidic mountain soil we started with. It is a long slow process. The fast way, recommended by the soil testing company, is to spread fertilizer. The way we do it takes more patience and our soils are not the type that would support growing crops such as corn or cotton that require high nutrient levels.

      Start slowly and ease yourself into it gradually. There is a tremendous amount to learn as well as developing your infrastructure and markets. Much can be learned from talking with others, books and the web but in the end you need the hands on time of doing multiple cycles of production to really develop your skills. Enjoy the process!

  2. Lynne Windt says:

    Awesome site for a newbe like me,THANK YOU ! Question: I recently bought a nice gentle bred gilt(?) she had 6 babies (lost 2)whatever….she is passing worms ,they look like large strongyles (sp) that young horses get,how do I worm her naturally ? Will diatamatious earth work ? …and what about the babies ,they are growing , spunky , and seem healthy but obviously there was a problem or mom would have had more babies and she wouldn’t be passing these foot long monsters now…the babies are 10 days old .Thank you in advance, Lynne

  3. Someone asked today if the milk and whey we get is GMOed hormone free (recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone / rBGH / rBST). The answer is, yes, we have no rBST/rBGH/etc. We get our milk and whey from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery. Here is the answer from their web site FAQ:

    Do we use milk from animals that have been treated with growth hormones (rBST)?
    No. We purchase milk and cream that is rBST-free. Suppling farms provide us with an affidavit stating that they do not use growth hormones to boost milk production in their cows. There is no rBST equivalent for goats. Goat farmers do not use growth hormones to boost milk production.”

    During the 1990’s rBST was widely used to boost milk production in cows however their were problems with infection. Many dairies and retailers banned the use of rBST and some very big retailers (e.g., Walmart) began requiring labeling and rejected rBST milk. At this point rBST is out of favor. All the milk I see is rBST-free as a result.

    • Mark M. says:

      That is great to hear but what about GMOed corn and soy which is in virtually all commercial feeds? Almost all corn grown is GMO and same for soy.

      • We don’t feed commercial hog feeds. Our land is not particularly good for growing corn, or soy, because it is swiftly sloping and the soils are thin and rocky. Not conducive to tractors or much in the way of cultivation. I grow a little good old time sweet corn for our family consumption but corn is pretty much a fail here on the mountain. When I’ve tried growing larger amounts of corn (all not GMO) the weather has killed it five out of seven years. With the slope, poor soil and short season our land is better pastured than cropped. This is why we’ve spent a decade breeding for pigs that don’t require the commercial corn/soy feeds but instead do well on pasture. We don’t buy or feed commercial hog feeds nor corn/soy grains either. See the Pigs Page for details on our pigs’s diet which is primarily pasture followed by dairy plus then vegetables and fruits we grow or we get locally such as from the nearby cider mill.

  4. Someone asked about antibiotic residue in milk, whey, butter and cheese. There is none according to the FAQ from the creamery states on their web site:

    Is the milk free of antibiotics?
    The FDA requires that all milk be tested for antibiotics prior to receiving at the creamery. This not only assures public health and saftety, but also that our starter cultures will do their job in the cheesemaking process.

    The fact that they produce a high end product and don’t work with the conventional Big Ag dairies further helps to assure quality and wholesomeness. [Update: According to Dan Scruton from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture there is a protocol of a dilution of 100:1 or a delay before slaughter would also take care of any if found although normally it would simply be held back and not fed to livestock which is why the issue doesn’t typically come up.]

  5. Walter, I often talk to our customers as well as chefs at other farms about the need to KNOW YOUR FARMER. All the labels, certifications, Blur Ribbons etc don’t amount to a small amount of (non-GMO) beans unless you ask the right questions of those who raise your food. Even though we are certified organic on our farm it does not release the consumer of their own responsibility to research their own food sources. Like you said, The NOP still allows chickens to be certified organic without any strict requirement for humane care. Chickens must have “access to the outdoors” but 20,000 chickens crammed in one building with a small 5 ft by 5ft dirt yard they must push and shove to get into, somehow meets the weakly enforced standards. You are the only pig farmer I know who really and truly is Beyond Organic!!

  6. Janet says:

    Dear Walter,

    We are in one of the northern states buying from a farm that sells Mangalitsa pig meats. On their website these pigs are highly praised as GMO free, pastured raised animals. On a last minute visit to their farm recently to pick up some meat we purchased, we took a quickie farm tour and discovered that these pigs are being fed bakery waste products. In other words, there is a huge truckload of bakery waste products sitting there to feed the pigs. I know these old breads are not organic. They are likely from a bakery or a grocery store with their wrappers removed.

    I eat traditionally and would never eat this type of bread product. It contains GMOs, sugar, gmo soy, soy oils and other industrial oils I would not eat, preservatives, bromines and a lot of other bad stuff I would never eat. This farm claims to be following some permaculture and pastured animal practices and although not organic, they say their animals are GMO free. I don’t know what percentage of their diet is this bread, but it looks like it is a LOT of their diet due to the huge amount of this bread (almost a truckload). I am very concerned and I have emailed them to ask about their practices and have not yet heard back.

    Would you consider this bread to be part of a healthful pastured hog diet? The Mangalitsa’s are considered to be a very fatty hog. Fat can be good but wouldn’t these hogs be full of nutrients that are undesirable? I just cannot get my head around this when they claim their hogs to be GMO free and pastured. I am always looking for nutrient dense food and this seems to be 180 degrees in the other direction.

    Thanks for any input.

    Janet

    • They might but doing only a small amount of supplementing with bread. Bread also has little in the way of GMOs since barley, wheat and such are non-GMO. The primary GMO crops are corn, soy and rice which are not primary ingredients in breads or cakes. While the load of bread may look like a lot, if it is being fed out over a long period then it may be only a small part of their diet. My understanding is that the Mangalitsa are a lard pig so a high calorie diet of a lot of bread would make them blow up with a lot of back and belly fat. I would not be worried about a small amount of bread in their diet.

  7. Chuck adams says:

    Hello Mr. Jefferies and family,
    2 years ago I had a massive heart attack while out exercising . The docs said i should not have survived such injury to my heart . Despite a very healthful lifestyle , both in diet and lifelong intensive excercise , it was learned that I have cardiovascular disease . I am now in second stage chf because of my low cardiac output secondary to one third of my heart no longer functioning . While I was on medical leave i started researching everything i could outside of conventional cardiac therapy to see what I could be missing that could contribute to my disease . My body just doesn’t want to produce hdl’s and my cholesterol levels were out of wack despite my diet and exercise . In the process of learning about ‘super foods’ that raise your hdl levels i found information about the analysis of pasture raised meats and the comparison to commercially raised meat and produce . Wow- what a lesson! I started reading and watching every documentary about the state of food in this country that I could find – and became enraged . I have raised chickens on our little homestead but no other livestock , though it was always a goal to do so . I became determined to raise my own meat and replace all supermarket meat as quickly as possible . In the process of studying all i could about raising my livestock of choice and improving my land , I would read about successful organic producers and permaculturists and see how they applied the science and practice . That is how i came to your site . I have been in awe of your practice , your apparent patience and your generosity with your information. Your love for your work and animals is also apparent and commendable .
    Last year i started raising dairy goats . My goal is to have the milk for my family dairy products( i need to stay away from dairy products) and to put one goat ‘ inthe freezer’ each year . Extra milk will feed my pigs that I hope to start raising this year . My immediate goal is to fill the requests of my friends and associates who have asked to buy meat and produce , to pay for the stock i am raising . So far , without any effort at all , I have more requests than i believe i can handle ! I have a Muslim friend who came out to see a goat for slaughter . He is very strict about the meat he eats and when he saw how i have been operating and the philosophy i will adhere to , he was so impressed that he hopes i will grow enough to supply meat to all of his fellow temple associates , for example.
    I have taken much too much of your time , but this is some background for where I am heading . I am 54 years old and wish i had started this earlier . I believe i can meet my goal of growing enough for myself and selling enough to “catch up” to the investments in infrastructure , but as i work four dAys a week away from home , and given my age and endurance limitations , do you have any experience that could speak to the issue of how far it might be possible to expand on my homesteading / farming ? I hope to sell goat, pork and chicken , all from pasture . We have sold eggs a bit for a few years .
    Also , do you ever allow visits to your farm ? Understandably you must be incredibly busy- the fact that I have seen your comments on various blog sites beside your own website leaves me wondering if you ever sleep !
    You should feel very proud of yourself for your part in inspiring others in the farming community , and for ‘setting the bar’ for agricultural standards . If I am lucky i will atleast be able to visit you to buy a piglet to improve my product offering! Sincerely , chuck adams

    • I really don’t know as I’m not a doctor and don’t understand the limits of those things. The hardest work is building up the infrastructure. Focus on designing things so that you minimize maintenance and labor in the long term. This is a fundamental part of how we look at everything we do. Trading thinking time for labor time and good setup for long term shoveling. Start small and grow into it to find your balances.

  8. margarita szechenyi says:

    What do you think about Certified Naturally Grown? They sound great, but I’m kinda creeped out by the global database they’re creating…

    • We were part of the Certified Naturally Grown program back when it started. But they changed and we discontinued our membership. We still have the same objectives, they went a bit of a different way.

  9. Andrew Tice says:

    Mr. Jeffries, Im in Colorado and I raise Hereford, Red Wattles and Hereford/Red Wattle crosses. I am wanting to go pastured, organic, gmo, steroid, antibiotic free( or as much as I can. I have a lot of micro breweries around and was wondering how the waste mash would be for my animals? I heard don’t feed no more than 15% at a time. Does it have to be dried to feed it or just dried to store so it doesn’t waste. Thank you for taking the time to reply.

    • The spent barley mash from beer making is very good pig feed. The scientific research says that it can be up to 50% Dry Matter Intake (%DMI) but I find it is better to keep it below 25%DMI or you’ll cause constipation and wasting of the spent barley undigested out the back end of the pigs. You’ll see that in the manure if it’s happening. Run chickens behind the pigs. We currently get enough spent barley to make up about 2%DMI of our pigs’s diet. I would love to get 10x that. The pigs love it and do well on it. Larger pigs, roasters on up, do better on the spent barley than smaller pigs like piglets and weaners. Barley produces a hard fat which is good.

      Beware of spent distiller’s mash from corn as the research shows that produces soft fat (bad) above 7%DMI. Do not confuse spent barley which has been soaked and cooked with whole barley which is releatively indigestible and will tend to pass right through the pigs and can cause starvation in the land of plenty – a waste of money.

      We feed it right out. In a cold climate like ours we can freeze it, whether we like it or not, and then it does keep indefinitely. In a warm climate it will mold quickly, within a few days. If you want to save it then spread it out to dry. I’ve inadvertently discovered that it will also store ‘pickled’ under whey and water might also work. Any that is moldy should not be fed to pigs, especially not smaller pigs and very especially not to gestating sows as the fetuses are particularly sensitive and can be killed by the mycotoxins produced by molds. If you feed moldy food to pigs you may cause miscarriages.

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