Suzanne Nelson Karreman and her family, along with a dedicated and passionate farm team,…
Peggy and George Earls, along with their daughter Olivia and son Julian, raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens, meat sheep and dairy goats at Hillside Meadows in Verona, Kentucky. Peggy’s grandfather farmed in Germany and was well-known for taking good care of his animals. “I never saw myself farming, but my husband, who had great memories of living on a farm in Indiana as a child, dreamed of having a bit of land with a few goats.” The Earls family purchased a 145-year-old farmhouse and surrounding acreage in 2015, moved in 2016, built a barn and added fencing to the grassy hillsides and started farming in 2018.
The Earls family manages a flock of Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW Delaware laying hens, along with a herd of Katahdin sheep and Nigerian Dwarf goats on the farm. The flock of hens are raised outdoors on pasture and are able to perform natural behaviors, like running, dust bathing, pecking and scratching for grubs and seeds. Pasture-based management not only provides the highest welfare conditions for the hens, but also produces healthier eggs containing three times as much vitamin E, seven times more beta-carotene, and twice the omega-3 fatty acids as industrial eggs.
The Katahdin sheep are also raised outdoors on pasture at Hillside Meadows. “The reason we chose Katahdins is because they are hair sheep, which require no shearing,” says Peggy. “Also, we think they are really the future of the sheep industry because of their parasite resistance. Most of our sheep never need dewormers. Between our pasture-based management practices and their resistance, we have a great, healthy herd of animals.”
The Earls also manage a growing herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats, which they rotationally graze with other species on the farm. Rotational management involves grazing one section of pasture before being moved to fresh fields. This type of management allows grass to recover before cows return to graze again; it also keeps the soil properly fertilized and minimizes the build-up of internal parasites, thereby avoiding reliance on chemical treatments.
For the Earls family, the most important part of their animal husbandry practices is helping to facilitate a balance of safety and freedom for their livestock. “They need to have the freedom to be pasture raised but have safety of barn and shelters,” says Peggy. “I’m also guided by the belief that we need to be in a relationship with the animal where we’re not just the takers. We’re working together.”
AGW certification is an important part of the farm’s marketing strategy. “We’ve learned firsthand that customers want to see certified products. People have been incredibly responsive and excited about our AGW certification. People also want high quality products, and our AGW certification shows that we’ve been verified according to the highest animal care standards out there. It is a marker of quality.”
In the future, the Earls would like to grow their product supply to a point where they can provide a certain number of customers with their products on a regular basis. “We don’t want to be huge,” says Peggy. “We want to focus on keeping our operation at a manageable and sustainable scale while being able to offer a subscription farm share of goat cheese, lamb, eggs, goat milk soap and lotion.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW goat milk soap and goat milk lotion are available directly from the farm as well as at area outlets. Check the AGW directory for details. Hillside Meadows’ goat milk soaps and lotions have no chemical additives like colors or scent enhancers, making them perfect for people with skin conditions, allergies and sensitivities. For more information, visit www.hillsidemeadowsfarm.com, follow the farm on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram and contact Peggy Earls at firstname.lastname@example.org and (859) 414-0400.