Animal Welfare Approved is pleased to announce that it will offer a third year of Good Husbandry Grants. AWA is seeking proposals for projects to improve farm animal welfare with a concentration on three areas: increased outdoor access, improved genetics and improved slaughter facilities. “We have awarded funding for 65 projects in 25 states and are delighted to be able to continue these grants for 2011,” said Andrew Gunther, AWA Program Director. “The impact of these grants has been extraordinary—the finished projects prove that there is an inextricable link between high-welfare, pasture- and range-based husbandry and successful farms.” Current Animal Welfare Approved farmers and those who have applied to join the program are eligible for grants of up to $5,000. Jeremy Vargo of AWA-certified Vargo Farms in Bullock, North Carolina, raises hogs and received a 2010 grant to improve his mobile housing system. “The huts have greatly benefited my hogs,” he explained, “by improving herd health and expanding our ability to rotate pastures while providing shelter from the elements. This grant program, like AWA, is a win-win for the whole farm.”
Named after one of the spring-fed streams bordering Worth and Hillary Kimmel’s property, Pine Trough Branch Farm has been in the family since 1953. Worth and Hillary are second generation family farmers who grew up on farms and have worked individually to pursue an education and gain the skill sets needed to be sustainable food producers. “Managing the family farms that we both come from and this rootedness to the land is a main theme and reason behind why we are both committed to a life of farming,” Worth and Hillary explain.
Pine Trough Branch Farm covers 118 acres and consists of a mixture of pasture and woodland. Worth and Hillary raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) pigs and sheep on pasture, but endeavor to utilize the entire farm landscape: “The intermingled network of pasture, woods, edge, pond and stream, provides us a diverse landscape to operate on,” says Hillary. “We manage our woods for production of firewood, lumber, shiitake mushroom production, and fence posts.”
The Tamworth hogs and Katahdin sheep are wonderful additions to Worth and Hillary’s pasture-based management system. “Our Tamworth hogs are hearty growers in the Piedmont,” Worth explains. A docile and active breed, Tamworth hogs have lived an outdoor life for centuries. The breed is ideal for pasture-based systems because they are excellent foragers, and their long heads and efficient snouts, combined with their strong and sturdy long legs, aid the animals in their foraging pursuits. Worth and Hillary carefully rotate their hogs on pasture, as well as through certain wooded areas of their property. “The hogs are adept at converting whatever can be found in a brushy field or crop stubble into quality meat,” says Worth. “Tamworth pork grown on pasture has a nutty, mellow, cured-like aroma and amazingly robust flavor and color.”
The Katahdin sheep at Pine Trough Branch Farm similarly thrive on a forage-based diet. The sheep graze pastures year-round in a management-intensive grazing (MiG) system. This system provides repeated periods of grazing and rest for the pastures and paddocks. “We lamb on pasture, fatten lambs on spring and summer forages and overwinter on stockpile, and our climate and adapted stock allow for optimum use of this natural system,” Hillary explains. Katahdin sheep have hair rather than wool, and they are known for their mothering ability, adaptability, and suitability for pasture-based management systems.
The most important aspects of animal husbandry practices for Worth and Hillary are providing a natural environment for their animals and incorporating holistic management into their farming practices, and they take great care to monitor the animals, giving them what they need to be successful and thrive outdoors. One of the key factors in the success of their system was their selection of livestock—and then specific breeds—that are well adapted to the Piedmont climate and landscape: “Once in the proper setting we simply provide our livestock with supplement, clean water, and careful management,” says Hillary. “We have successfully eliminated the need for so many of the crutches that are commonly used in livestock production.”
Pasture-based management is central to Worth and Hillary’s farming. As they explain, “livestock on pasture are an important part of a larger cycle. The pasture itself would not cycle nutrients properly or remain in grassland without the impact of livestock. With management on pasture, ruminants are amazing at converting forages into meat and fiber, while enhancing productivity behind them with a projection of microbes and fertility through manure. Furthermore, pests, feeding, lambing, and farrowing can all be managed with a holistic approach in the pasture environment.”
Worth and Hillary chose to pursue AGW certification because they believe “Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW is the strongest certification for the modern outdoor livestock producer,” and they were already managing animals in ways that aligned with AGW standards. “We cannot expect our animals to perform well for us unless they are treated with utmost respect,” Hillary says. The AGW label is a marker of high-quality and high-welfare management practices at their farm.
Pine Trough Branch Farm is planning to expand production and marketing capacities in the near future. Whatever they produce, the desire to provide a high-quality product for their customers will always be important for Hillary and Worth—both who are avid home cooks and eaters. As they explain, “Diversity in production is key to our approach and success,” and they plan to continue farming in this way in the future.
Pine Trough Branch Farm products are available directly from the farm (by appointment only) and at multiple retail outlets. Check the AGW Directory for details. Contact Worth and Hillary at email@example.com or (336) 706-8612, and visit www.ptbfarm.com and Pine Trough Branch Farm’s Facebook page for more information.