In November 2009 I attended the 17th National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference. I didn’t really know what to expect. We were visiting relatives in Columbia, MO where the conference was being held and we went on a whim. At the time I wasn’t that interested in farming or ranching. I was walking by a presentation by Greg Judy of Green Pasture Farms who was talking about farming in a way I had never heard of. He claimed that he was making a living from pasture raised sheep and cattle. I didn’t think this was possible! The following year I intentionally attended the 18TH National Small Farm Conference to learn more about Greg and his methods. During the 2010 show, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms was the main attraction. During his presentation “The Future of Agriculture” he described a local-based financially and environmentally sustainable model of food production. It was a very appealing concept and something I had never heard of before.
That was the first of many times that I would attend events featuring Salatin and Judy. Their messages were similar: ranching can be on a local scale. The animals are raised from start to finish on the farm. They are not aggregated by a large corporation, centrally processed and then shipped around the country. The farming is done with minimal inputs and relies on perennial pastures that only need sunlight and rain to keep producing grass that drives their systems. Both producers rely on direct marketing to customers. Many people are realizing that the only way to really know what is in your food is to know where it is raised and who is raising it for you. Without local transparency, the products a consumer purchases can be questionable. Greg and Joel’s production methods are the opposite of modern centralized agriculture. Their presentations in person and on YouTube planted the seed that led me down the path that farming could be an enjoyable and fulfilling endeavor.
This was the beginning. Over the next few years there was a lot of studying, planning, and agonizing to realize that we could use these production methods on the farm that my brother and I grew up on in Van Etten, NY.