In 2008, Jennifer Curtis and Tina Prevatte Levy, Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of Firsthand Foods, merged…
Joey McQuade and his family raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) pigs and Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW beef cattle at Sylvan Farm in Saluda, South Carolina.
Joey was born on a farm in West Virginia but moved off-farm when he was a young child. Before purchasing the land that would become Sylvan Farm, he and his family lived in Los Angeles, where Joey ran a furniture store. Through it all, Joey had dreams of getting back to the farm—a dream that became a reality in 2010 when he and his family bought 120-acre Sylvan Farm.
“The farm has giant oak trees and a farmhouse that was built in the 1920s,” says Joey. “We purchased another piece of property that backs up to the farm, which includes an old chicken processing plant that we now use for packing. The land has been based in agriculture for over 100 years. Sometimes we’ll run across old pieces of farm equipment as we walk around the farm—we’re discovering something new all the time.”
Joey currently manages approximately 50 Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pigs outdoors on pasture or range, where they are free to root and forage as pigs naturally do. This high-welfare management is a fundamental component of AGW’s certification and is known to have environmental, nutritional and culinary benefits. “We’re doing the Gloucester Old Spots, a breed we love. They’re the most docile animals, they make great mothers and they’re a really good breed for foraging and pasture-based production,” says Joey. “We also experimenting with breeding Duroc to Berkshire pigs to get a slightly leaner hog that we’d like to use for ham curing.”
Joey also manages a herd of Black Angus beef cattle at Sylvan Farm. In addition to being Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, the beef cattle are Certified Grassfed by AGW, the first—and only—food label in the U.S. and Canada that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100 percent grass and forage diet, and raised entirely outdoors on pasture or range. “The Angus breed is efficient at putting on weight from the grass in our particular climate and region,” Joey explains. The cattle are rotationally managed, grazing one section of pasture before being moved to fresh fields. This type of management allows grass to recover before the cattle 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.
Sustainability is at the core of every management decision at Sylvan Farm: “It’s important that we are able to manage the operation in a way that sustains the environment, the animals, our livelihoods and the long-term existence of the farm itself,” Joey says. He’s also a passionate proponent of pasture-based management as far as animal husbandry is concerned. “Pasture-based management is definitely better for the environment and better for animals,” Joey adds. “The pigs wallow in the mud. The cattle graze. They do what nature intended them to do.”
The McQuades chose to pursue AGW certification to distinguish themselves in the marketplace. “Our two certifications set us apart from the other products in the meat coolers in the specialty markets that we sell to,” Joey says. “We really take pride in how we raise and treat our animals. With our AGW certifications, people really know how our animals are treated and know that we’re raising our animals according to the highest environmental and welfare standards from birth through slaughter.”
In the future, Joey has plans to grow the farm while keeping a strong focus on maintaining an efficient farming operation. “I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes a smaller business that you can manage efficiently is better than going extremely large,” Joey says. “We want to keep Sylvan Farm as a small to medium family farm and focus on expanding into more markets throughout South Carolina.” He also hopes to spend more time with his family—and fish in the two ponds located on the farm!
In addition to Joey’s family, his parents are also greatly involved on the farm. “They come five days a week,” Joey says. “My mom helps plant the garden while my dad drives the tractor. It’s really brought the family closer together. We were all excited recently when the farm also achieved organic certification for our produce. It’s a full family effort!”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pork and Certified Grassfed by AGW beef from Sylvan Farm is available at several markets and retail outlets around South Carolina. Check the AGW directory for details. For more information about Sylvan Farm, visit sylvanfarm.org and the farm’s Facebook page. Contact Joey McQuade at firstname.lastname@example.org and 803-307-1400.