Some history about Red House Ranch

written by

Chris Mallula

posted on

October 5, 2022

Ike and Dave Mallula, Owners of Red House Ranch

In November of 2009 Ike attended the 17th annual National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference in Columbia, Missouri. He went just out of curiosity, on a whim not knowing what to expect. Having left the family farm decades earlier and travelled the world as an electrical engineer Ike had no real interest in farming.

He happened to hear a presentation by Greg Judy of Green Pasture Farms who was talking about farming methods that were vastly different from what he knew growing up on the family farm in Van Etten, NY.

Greg claimed that he was able to make a living from pasture raised sheep and cattle. No feed. Just grass.

After watching his parents struggle with weather, finances, changing market conditions - Ike wondered if this could be possible?

He was so intrigued that in 2018 he again attended the National Small Farm Conference to learn more. It was here that Ike heard keynote speaker and farming rock star Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. In his presentation entitled The Future of Agriculture Joel discussed a model of food production based on local farms that would be financially and environmentally sustainable.

Attending events featuring Salatin and Judy became a regular past time for Ike and their message - that farming could be on a local scale - sounded better and better. In this new model livestock are raised on the farm from start to finish. There would be no corporate aggregation and processing at a small number of plants with product then shipped nationwide.

This new method would rely on perennial pastures needing only sunlight, rain, manure and animal impact of the livestock that rotationally graze these areas. No feedlots or CAFO production of meat and eggs. Industrial chemicals: fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and routine antibiotics or growth hormones are not a part of this model. Products would be sold directly to customers and local markets without traditional distribution channels.

Judy and Salatin were convincingly suggesting that modern centralized agriculture does not allow consumers to know anything about the origin, quality or nutritional value of their food. There is no transparency. Local farming could produce higher quality food with direct to consumer sales and provide transparency about farming methods. Consumers could interact directly with the farms and farmers that produce their food. And, humane treatment of livestock is central to this new way of food production.

Cattle, hogs, and chickens would live in environments tailored to their natural behaviors. No confinement, no overcrowding, no piles of manure to wade in. Cattle, hogs, and chickens would enjoy rotational grazing methods to ensure access to fresh, clean pasture on a regular basis. Livestock are provided appropriate shelter from the elements but otherwise enjoy the sun, fresh air, and lush green pastures blanketed with pristine perennial grasses.

It was these presentations as well as information gathered from books, documentaries, podcasts, and You Tube that led Ike and Dave down a path back to the family farm in Van Etten, New York at a time when many others are entering retirement. In the years that followed Ike and Dave studied, went to more conferences, planned and agonized over how they could bring the old farm back to life after being dormant for decades.

Ike and Dave liked the idea of farming together but perhaps more important - they both had health issues that seemed to stem from their typical American diet. Too many carbs. And, it seemed the conventional medical wisdom had no interest, whatsoever in looking at diet as a way to improve health. The more they read the more they knew that health is a direct function of the food you eat. Both Ike and Dave moved toward the Paleo and Keto lifestyles and saw dramatic improvements in their health. They began eating more clean, grass fed and pasture raised meat, eggs, more veg and eliminated carbs, seed oils, sugar, and other processed foods. Their health issues improved dramatically.

Faced with having to use or lose the farm which had been cleared by hand by their grandparents (dairy farmers and egg growers) and farmed by their parents (dairy and beef cattle) - Ike and Dave jumped into farming head first to begin producing "Real Food for Better Health"; clean, local, grass fed beef and pasture raised pork, chicken, and eggs.

In 2016 Ike left his job in telecom engineering and Dave left an HVAC firm to begin a regenerative agriculture operation at what is now Red House Ranch. The years that followed have been fun, interesting and challenging at the same time.

Climate change, Covid, rapid inflation, supply chain interruptions, shortages of livestock processors have all played a part in the rate of growth at Red House Ranch.

Ike and Dave have felt the effects of climate change with extreme weather conditions including excessive rain, drought in 2022, high winds, extreme cold and extreme heat. Regenerative farming means moving flocks and livestock over the pastures to take advantage of rotational grazing, animal impact and the manure left behind. In some years excessive rain created muddy conditions making it sometimes impossible to move the flocks to fresh pasture. Extended periods of sub-zero temperatures resulted in frozen and broken water lines. Snow and ice complicate any and all farming operations.

Today, in 2022 Ike and Dave tend to about 2,000 laying hens and ship eggs by the pallet the Boston area. Business boomed during the year Covid emptied grocery store shelves and then declined dramatically in the following year. Since then sales of grass fed beef, pasture raised pork, chicken, and eggs have steadily increased. To meet increased demand, Red House Ranch now partners with other like-minded regenerative farms.

To keep up with increased demand for Real Food for Better Health, water distribution systems have been extended and enhanced, additional hen houses have been added, a solar panel array was erected, and other infrastructure has been improved.

As a side business visitors are invited to camp at the farm through websites called Hip Camp and Harvest Host. There are just two campsites available on the 200 acre farm; one with access for large RVs. The sites are rustic with only water and an outhouse provided. Campsites are fully occupied from Spring through late Fall with campers from all over the country. Visitors get to see a working farm in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region, amazing views of the hills, valleys, sunrises and sunsets and enjoy the peaceful sounds of crickets, tree frogs, and owls hooting in the distance at night.

From Red House Ranch, many venture out to take in other attractions in the Finger Lakes Region - cideries, orchards, waterfalls, wineries, and local markets.

Ike and Dave are enjoying their "retirement" farming careers. Dave is the farm operations manager and the resident animal whisperer. Ike is hands on as well but also manages finances, strategic planning, sales and marketing.

Red House Ranch is located at 953 Rumsey Hill Road in Van Etten, New York. Operating hours are from 9 - 5 Monday through Saturday. We ship grass fed and finished beef, pasture raised pork, and chicken by UPS to the greater Northeast. Local customers are welcome to pick up their orders at the farm.

More from the blog

Flock Finger Lakes Video

Summer Rayne of Flock Finger Lakes interviews Ike about Red House Ranch - our history, who we are, why we choose to farm and where we're going with our regenerative farming operation in Van Etten, NY.

Pasture Raised Hogs

Ike talks about our pasture raised hog operation here at Red House Ranch. Of course, we want to provide our customers with the best tasting, and most nutritious pork but humane treatment of our animals is top priority. A pasture environment is the best way to keep hogs happy and healthy as well as to produce the best tasting pork cuts.