Stephen Gajdosik grew up in Wisconsin, accustomed to seeing cows dot the countryside. Farming didn’t become something he considered doing until he learned about the way the majority of animals are raised and food is produced. As a father, he wanted to feed the very best food he could find to his children, and this desire led him into farming.
Stephen and his family bought the 31-acre parcel of land that they currently farm in 2012. “We wanted to raise animals that could live off the land, as nature intended, and help to heal it,” says Stephen. Today, the Gajdosik family raises Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens, Certified Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Grassfed by AGW beef cattle, Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW and Certified Non-GMO by AGW dairy goats, and Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW and Certified Non-GMO by AGW dairy cattle at Pure Pastured in Moore, South Carolina.
The flock of laying hens are raised outdoors on pasture where they are able to perform natural behaviors, like running, dust bathing, pecking and scratching for grubs and seeds. “Our chickens are free to roam about the pasture,” says Stephen. “They have a coop for safety and egg laying, and the pasture to forage for grass, seeds and insects.” 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 livestock at Pure Pastured are rotationally managed, grazing one section of pasture before being moved to fresh fields. This type of management allows grass to recover before animals 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. “Because we chose cows, goats and chickens, the only viable management system that would treat the animals according to their nature was one that is pasture-based. Anything else would be a compromise. Because of that, synthetic fertilizers, that have the unintended consequence of killing off the microbe population so necessary for healthy plants, are not even an option,” says Stephen.
Over time and through a little bit of trial and error, Stephen learned quite a bit about animals and settled on Jersey cross cows and Nigerian Dwarf goats for his farm. “We like the higher protein and fat of the Jersey milk but were concerned about their tendency to ‘milk the fat off their backs,’ something even more likely on an all grass diet. So, we purchased five Jerseys with only the A2 casein genes and crossed them with Normande, Dutch Belted and Dexter. We did this to take advantage of some hybrid vigor from crossing breeds, but also to find a good cross that could regulate its milk production while still producing high protein, high fat and only A2.”
The Gajdosiks explain their farming philosophy as “Food as Nature Intended.” “To that end, for example, our calves drink their mother’s milk only for the first week and then continue to drink from the combined milk for up to seven months to allow their body, and especially their rumen, to develop well,” says Stephen. “Once they are weaned, they eat only pasture and hay—no grain, no soy. The same is true for our goats. They also receive non-GMO mineral supplements to round out their nutritional needs.”
Stephen and his family researched multiple farm animal welfare certifications and ultimately found that the AGW program was most closely related to their farming goals and vision. “Yes, we wanted our animals to be free from GMO’s. Yes, we wanted our cows and goats to be 100% grassfed. Yes, we wanted our chickens to range freely, but each of those elements, as important as they are, are only part of a synergistic system with the animals’ health and contentment based upon an animal being able to demonstrate its natural behaviors to the fullest extent possible,” explains Stephen. “AGW understands that in a way that other certifications do not. All of the others seemed incomplete, some as mere marketing tools.”
In the future, the Gajdosiks have plans to expand into making aged cheeses, continuing to spread the farm duties to all members of the family. “Our adult daughter, Lizzie, is our goat-herd. She takes care of all the needs of the goats. Stephen and Joseph are the cow-herds. From moving the cows to milking, they are developing great skill with them. As our daughter, Maria, prepares for college, she is handing off the care of the chickens to Felicity.”
AGW-certified products from Pure Pastured are available directly from the farm. For more information, follow the farm on Facebook or contact Stephen Gajdosik at firstname.lastname@example.org and (864) 909-9771.