We do not claim to be organic, natural, or humane. We prefer to be selective in what we call ourselves (if anything) because broad descriptions of farm operations are often misleading. There is no all-encompassing label for what we do. We are who we are and we do the best that we can with what we have. There is nothing “humane” about killing and eating organisms—whether it be plants, fish, or mammals. This practice of consumption is the basis for our survival. Consuming organisms is an act which occurs in most all spectrums of life here on earth, and there’s nothing humane about it. The idea of humane-raising and handling of livestock is certainly doable, but we cannot confuse ourselves with pretty images of farmsteads and happy cows and go on living without the knowledge that farming is a real life process, and real life processes can be both beautiful and brutal. Farming is as real as the lion who kills the wildebeest. It is as real as the hen who eats the spider in the grass. It is as real as the tree which shades out its competition, strangling smaller trees from light and water in order to survive itself. In this world all things consume in some way or another, and we are no different.
Modern man has created a disconnect between himself and the food chain. There are people who will not eat our small-farm eggs or meat because they can’t handle the thought that the products come from “real animals.” Are the animals in cages at the confined feedlots not real animals? What are we missing here?
Our goal is to repair the disconnect between consumers and their food, and to open the doors for modern man to see that the farm is both a place of life and of death. We live and die here and so do the animals.
One of our key philosophies is that livestock and pasture-based farming is less ecologically destructive to both soil and animals than traditional grain farming, and even vegetable farming. It is sad for me to hear many vegetarians’ stances on not eating meat because it comes from animals, and they don’t want to kill animals, when in fact the very vegetable farms they support generally kill and displace far more individual animals than my beef farm does.
I am a former vegan, having spent two or three years in my early twenties consuming absolutely no animal products. I let go of this dietary and belief system when I realized the truths behind all of farming—whether it be crop cultivation or livestock. Being fortunate to know many vegetable farmers, I am privy to the information on the numbers of whitetail deer, groundhogs, and other animals which are shot in the vegetable fields every day and left to rot. A local 300-acre vegetable farm, focusing on tomatoes, peppers, melons, and sweet corn, reported to me that they have killed over 60 deer in one summer growing season. That’s about the same number of slaughtered steers, maybe more, than would be annually killed on a beef farm of the same 300-acre size. Adding to the situation is the fact that these animals are often hung up by their legs to prevent them from being eaten by buzzards to warn off other deer, a tactic which works well, but not well enough to prevent the 60 or so deer casualties each season on this relatively small farmland plot. At Field Station, we are lucky that we do not have to kill animals and hang their carcasses along the field. Our system is able to work with the deer, which I appreciate very much.
One of the other factors which led to my departure from the vegan lifestyle and contributed to the commencement of Field Station Farm was the consideration of the indirect casualties of vegetable, tillage and grain farming: wild animal displacement, petroleum fertilizer toxicity to waterways and other animals, broad-spectrum pesticide application and how it affects animals in the wild, herbicide toxicity, and deterioration of soil microbial life. All of these negative components are absent in the Field Station Farm system and many other pasture-based farming systems. The local deer population eats our pastures, and I do not shoot them for it. The possums and raccoons and weasels profit from my chickens, and I can’t do much about it. This is the way it goes.
Biodiversity is unequivocally a positive factor for sustainable life on earth. Diversification is key in almost every endeavor. All of these positives and symbiotic relationships are absent in large-scale vegetable and grain farming, and should be noted as positives of a meat- and pasture-based operation. This is why Field Station chose to pursue this route for its operation.
At the bottom of the farm’s philosophy is the simple desire to learn more about the past, and better prepare for the future while enjoying our present situation. Our farm is not perfect. There are areas I want to improve. Each week and into weekends there’s another project in progress to fix issues we see developing with the land or animals. At the core, we aim to properly manage land and animals for the benefit of every system on Earth.
We do not farm for a living. We live to farm.