Suzanne Nelson Karreman and her family, along with a dedicated and passionate farm team,…
Caitlyn Farms Sustainably Raised Beef is located on 600 acres at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Mill Spring, North Carolina. The hilly terrain consists of old growth hardwood forests, pine stands and grasslands, as well as freshwater springs, wetlands and creeks, providing an ideal location for the team to manage their herd of Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW beef cattle. Managed by Atley Elliott, who grew up on a beef cattle farm in Western North Carolina and obtained a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science from the University of Tennessee, Caitlyn Farms Sustainably Raised Beef is focused on managing cattle in ways that puts them at the forefront of conservation farming in the Southeast.
The team currently manages a 150 head herd of mixed breed cattle. “Our breeds consist of mainly Charolais along with Red and Black Angus, with some Hereford and Gelbvieh,” says Atley. “We are breeding with Red Angus right now for heat tolerance and calving ease.”
Pasture-based management practices are foundational to the work of Caitlyn Farms. “We never take our cows off pasture,” says Atley. “They always have access to fresh grasses and legumes and varying habitat types for shelter, even in the winter. We rotate our herd daily to keep our pastures in good health and to benefit ground nesting birds and mammals. Our cattle are trained to follow us, so we are able to move them once and sometimes twice daily depending on the pastures they are grazing, without any stressful herding or chasing. Being good stewards of the land is our number one priority here at Caitlyn Farms. We are constantly working to convert our once fescue dominated pastures to native grasslands, increase the size of our stream buffers and restore edge habitat to the property to benefit wildlife species like Bobwhite Quail”.
The White Oak Creek Wildlife Management Area is located on the property, and here the team also focuses on bio monitoring, native grassland and stream restorations, and other conservation projects. “Some of our most exciting upcoming projects are the creation of pine savannahs and restoration of native river cane breaks on the creeks here at the farm. We are collecting data on bird, mammal, and amphibian populations on the farm as well as monitoring cattle health to correlate with our land management practices. Overall, we’re looking to see how our habitat restorations not only benefit wildlife species on the farm, but also improve the health and quality of life for our cattle. The health of our streams, soil, and forests are extremely important to us, as there is so much more to raising cattle than green grass.
Caitlyn Farms chose to pursue certification because they know that labels are an important tool for consumers to learn how livestock are raised on the farm. “We want our customers to know that our cattle live a stress-free life here in the mountains and not raised on feedlots. We also want people to know that we are making an effort to normalize conservation farming and regenerative agriculture practices. Our goal is to be as sustainable as possible producing beef that’s the best it can be.”
Moving into the future, Caitlyn Farms will continue working to restore native grasslands and meadowscapes for wildlife and cattle health. “In the next few years, we hope to become a place for students, professionals and other farmers to conduct research, collaborate—and bridge the gap between wildlife conservation and farming,” says Atley. “We also hope to provide community workshops on regenerative agriculture practices in the future as well as offer hiking trails for birdwatching.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW beef from Caitlyn Farms Sustainably Raised Beef is sold from the farm, by appointment only, as well as at several other restaurants, outlets and farmers markets in the area. Check the AGW directory for details. For more information, visit beefandbobwhites.com, follow the farm on Facebook and Instagram or contact the farm at firstname.lastname@example.org and (828) 894-0648.