Samantha Gasson, Scott Stirrup and their three children raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) sheep, laying hens and pigs on 35 acres of pasture near Rougemont, North Carolina. The farm comprises of 5 acres of land on which their home is sited and 30 acres of pasture rented from their neighbor.
Samantha was raised in England, before moving to America with her family some time ago. She met Scott in the early 1990s during her time working as a zoo keeper. Bull City Farm was first conceptualized in 1993 when the couple decided to start a life together—and finally became a reality when they bought a small farm in Rougemont and started raising animals.
Although Samantha and Scott had no previous farming experience, their time working with animals as zoo keepers meant they took to farming like ducks to water, becoming very active in the local 4H. The push they needed to change from raising livestock as a hobby into a working farm came in late 2009, when they were asked to raise 40 heifers for a local dairy near Asheboro. Bull City Farm was born.
The Gassons manage both St. Croix and Katahdin sheep breeds, which follow or graze alongside the chickens. As well as producing fabulous lamb, both the breeds are hairless, making them ideally suited to the hot weather they experience in North Carolina, and Samantha and Scott do not have to worry about routine shearing. The sheep are managed in a rotational grazing strategy, grazing one section of pasture at a time before moving them to fresh grass, keeping the pasture in good condition and the weeds in check. Samantha and Scott find this approach works very well and leads to minimal problems with internal parasite control in their animals.
The Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pigs at Bull City Farm include a variety of breeds that perform well in outdoor systems, such as American Guinea Hogs, Berkshires, Mangalitsas, Hampshire/Berkshire crosses and Yorkshire/Hampshire crosses. “Our mixed breed pigs are rotated frequently so they have fresh forages, roots to dig up and bugs to eat,” says Samantha. “More importantly, they have the opportunity to run around and generally behave like pigs.”
The flock of 200 chickens at Bull City Farm is made up of hardy, traditional breeds, such as Buff Orpington and Rhode Island Reds, which were selected for their brown eggs, as well as Brown Leghorns, which produce a brilliant white egg. The Gassons also keep a number of the slightly less productive Americauna breed (also known as the Easter egg chicken) for their lovely green shelled eggs. “The wonderfully colorful cartons are very popular with our customers,” Samantha explains.
Samantha and Scott are proud of their certifications: “Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW was a natural choice for us and allows us to demonstrate our commitment to the highest environmental and welfare practices,” Samantha explains. “Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW is a label that customers really can trust.” The Gassons also appreciate the range of support AGW offers farmers in the program: “The Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW branded egg boxes are a real hit with customers and allow our farm’s ethos to really shine through,” Samantha adds
Samantha and Scott feel very strongly about the role the farm should play in educating schoolchildren about where their food comes from—particularly in an urban county, and the couple regularly hosts tours, camps and classes on the farm for the local community. “We recognize the importance of getting kids involved in farming as young as possible to provide experiences that will aid them throughout their lives,” Samantha explains. “Our 4-H group has grown from five to 23 kids over the last five years, making it the largest animal husbandry group in Durham County.”
Selling directly from the farm gate and at a local farmers’ market, the couple plans to introduce additional species to enhance the range of products available to customers. Samantha and Scott are particularly proud that their daughter wishes to continue her education in sustainable agriculture, something that has become very important to the family.
For more information about Bull City Farm—and where to buy Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pork, eggs and lamb—check the AGW directory, or visit www.bullcityfarm.com. Contact Samantha and Scott at 919-477-6684.