We recently had the pleasure of attending the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association's 14th annual Piedmont Farm Tour in the North Carolina triangle region. This is a self-guided tour encompassing 40 farms, where visitors pay by the carload to attend as many or as few as they wish. We had three farms on the tour this year: Baldwin Beef (grassfed Charolais cattle), Captain John S. Pope Farm (grassfed lamb), and Cane Creek Farm (pastured pigs). We met some wonderful people and had a great time talking with folks on the tour about Animal Welfare Approved and what being certified means (in between lamb burgers and popsicles!). Congratulations to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association for pulling of yet another successful tour. Each one gets better than the last!
Laura and Robin Sage have a deep love for the outdoors. They worked as educators and guides for many years but eventually put down roots in the Pacific Northwest. They had been producing their own food for a while before they decided to make a living through farming. To make the transition easier, Robin took on a year-long apprenticeship on a pasture-based livestock operation. They found land to lease soon after the apprenticeship ended—and their farming career began!
Laura and Robin raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) laying hens, pigs turkeys and meat chickens at Red Bird Acres in Corvallis, Oregon. With ample pasture and an oak woodlot, the 10-acre farm was once part of a larger dairy operation. “We chose to start a pastured livestock operation because, as consumers, we could not find the type of meat locally that met our expectations when it came to standards of animal husbandry,” said Laura. “Also, we really enjoy working with livestock animals!”
They raise Freedom Ranger broilers, Idaho Pasture Pigs and a mixed flock of traditional breed laying hens and turkeys. “The Freedom Rangers excel in a pasture-based setting, as they are very hardy and great foragers,” says Laura. “Growing at a slower rate, they yield an excellent broiler for the table.” The couple chose Idaho Pasture Pigs (IPPs) for their reputation as being docile and having good mothering skills, and because they are easier on pastures with their limited rooting, compared to other breeds. IPPs are an increasingly popular mixed breed pig, with foundation genetics from the Kunekune, Duroc and Berkshire breeds. Bred for pasture-based systems, the result is a slow growing pig that thrives in a pasture-based environment, and produces meat of excellent quality and flavor. Laura and Robin also raise a range of traditional breed laying hens and turkeys. The laying hen breeds have been selected for various reasons, ranging from egg color and egg laying proficiency to the bird’s aesthetic appearance, as well as rare breed conservation.
The Sages are passionate about the high-welfare management of their animals. “The most important thing is providing our animals with an environment where they are free to express all of their natural behaviors,” says Robin. “If our chickens want to be in their shelters roosting, that’s what they do. If they want to be out sunbathing or foraging for bugs, that’s what they do. The pigs are the same. They spend their days according to their own choosing. Along with that, we provide our animals with the highest quality feed that we can find, excellent veterinary care and strive to minimize stress in their lives at all times.” And pasture-based management is fundamental to these high-welfare practices. “We don’t believe animals should be raised in any other way,” says Laura. “Raising animals on pasture benefits the health of the soil, the health and happiness of the animals, and the nutritional and culinary value of the meat and eggs. For ethical and environmental reasons, nothing less is acceptable.”
In their search for a suitable farm certification, the Sages were looking for a program that represented their values: “We chose Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW because we believe the program has the highest standards and the most integrity of all the certifying bodies of this nature. We recognize that every customer can’t visit the farm to verify our practices for themselves. So, we hope our Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW logo will give customers peace of mind that when they buy meat from us, they are getting a product raised according to a set of verifiable high-welfare standards that are second to none.” The Sage’s long-term farming goals include owning land and growing their operation, eventually expanding into more farmers’ markets and increasing their CSA offerings. “In the future, we also want to offer farm stays to expose more people to what pasture-based farming looks like in practice,” Laura adds.
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pork products, chicken eggs, turkey and meat from Red Bird Acres are available directly from the farm by appointment, through their CSA program and at the Corvallis Farmers’ Market. For more information about Red Bird Acres, visit the farm’s website: redbirdacresfarm.com or on Facebook and Instagram. You can e-mail the farmers at email@example.com.