Fox Squirrel Farm is a 13-acre patchwork of pasture, woodland, vegetable production and silvopasture (woodland grazing) in the Sandhills of North Carolina. The property was originally designed and operated in the early 1920s as the Routh Pines School, a private boarding school for girls. In 1989, however, the Smith family bought the property and converted the old school into a successful bed and breakfast.
After becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of industrial farming, Jason and Sarah Smith started farming on two acres of land in the fall of 2010. Being several generations removed from the farm, they had to start everything from the ground up (literally!). Jason says he and Sarah have been passionate students and quick learners, learning everything they could “through attending farm tours, taking sustainable agriculture classes, going to conferences, talking to neighbors, and reading every book, magazine, and periodical we could get our hands on.”
Jason and Sarah now raise AWA chickens for meat and eggs, along with vegetables for sale to the local community. The farm’s 150 laying hens are a variety of traditional breeds, including Dominiques, Wyandottes, Orpingtons, and Americanas. Jason says that the chickens are integral to their farm: “The chickens are an important part of our multi-species rotational grazing system. This is our most important tool for helping us manage soil fertility, pests, diseases, and predators. By giving the land plenty of rest between animals, we are simultaneously improving our soil health, pasture health, animal health, efficiency and productivity.”
As Jason explains, this approach also maximizes animal welfare: “By grazing on pasture we are able to ensure that all of our animals are allowed to express their full animal nature. We believe in giving animals the best possible living conditions and to ensure that they are properly cared for from birth until death. By managing pasture grasses, we are improving our soil, as well as feeding and supplementing animals with nothing more than sunlight. The grasses take energy from the sun, the animals consume the grasses, and they are able to convert that into a protein that can in turn feed humans.”
Jason and Sarah sought AWA certification for many reasons – including its resonance with consumers: “We became Animal Welfare Approved because we feel that it gave us a huge marketing advantage and was the most effective way for us to communicate our husbandry ideals with the customer,” Jason explains. Their long-term farming goals include leaving the land in a better state than they found it: “We want to preserve and improve our land and soil so that the next generation can enjoy the same resources that we have. We also want to demonstrate that small scale farming can be sustainable and profitable and, hopefully, we can show a younger generation that this can be a rewarding career.”
Visit www.foxsquirrelfarm.com for more information.