Recently John Stossel of FOX Business Channel has aired a number of segments disparaging sustainable agriculture. His issues have included the use of herbicides and pesticides, grainfed vs. grassfed beef, genetically modified salmon and food safety. Is Stossel going out of his way to be outrageously provocative? To what end? And for whose benefit? Certainly we are not the only ones to condemn these reports as being inaccurate, unbalanced and biased, as the many comments to the reports attest. Stossel would no doubt accuse me of being unrealistic and only supporting small scale farms. However, the reality is that to keep the planet healthy and fed we will need to employ a wide range of solutions. Sadly, the last 40 years of ”big ag’s” version of the solution has shown chronic failure in the form of antibiotic resistance, tainted water and some of the largest food recalls in history. Too bad Stossel doesn’t recognize that we have to stop using the planet – a finite resource – as “big ag’s” test tube.
Despite the pouring rain at NYC’s Union Square Greenmarket, customer after customer stopped by to ask Dan Gibson from Grazin’ Angus Acres detailed questions about how he raises his animals. His new status as the first Animal Welfare Approved farmer in Greenmarket is something he’s very proud of and it shows in his conversations. Dan said he gets these questions all the time, but that’s why he loves having a farmstand at Greenmarket. He appreciates when people ask questions and come for tours on the farm. “Once they come for a tour of the farm,” he said, “they’re customers for life.”
While Dan is usually the person you’ll meet at the farmers’ markets, he doesn’t run the farm alone. He raises 250 head of cattle and 400 laying hens with his wife Susan, his son Keith and his wife Nicole and their partners Jim and Ilene Stark. Dan and his family are successful farmers even though they didn’t come from a farming background. Dan was a corporate executive in NYC and after 9/11 he decided to leave the corporate world. Two and a half years ago Dan retired to become a full time farmer.
When asked why his eggs are “so great,” Dan replied, “The hens are pasture raised and the eggs have an orange yolk that’s full of beta carotene and Omega-3’s. The hens are out and about all day long eating bugs and grass-they’re supplemented with 100% organic grain.” The fact that his animals are pasture raised is very important to Dan. He said, “‘Pasture-raised’ is key, ‘free-range’ is meaningless. All of our chickens are moved to fresh grass every day. We want our animals to have a longer life span and raising our cattle to a later age gives nicer tasting beef because it allows the animals to marble. We cultivate the best grasses, 100% Black Angus, best genetics.”
Grazin’ Angus Acres applied for the Animal Welfare Approved certification because as Dan recalls, “I was sure in my heart that I was doing the right things, not just providing a superior, safe and efficacious product and we were sure we were treating our animals with the respect that our customers in NYC and Albany would appreciate. I could talk about it all I wanted, but without the Animal Welfare Approved seal it wouldn’t [have the same impact].”
Grazin’ Angus Acres products can be purchased from the farm and local coops, at NYC’s Greenmarket, and at restaurants in the Hudson Valley and New York City. For more information on the farm’s Greenmarket schedule and where to find its products visit www.grazinangusacres.com.