Caroline Smith and her family raise AWA beef cattle on 700 acres of mountain pasture in Highland County, Virginia. The land has been farmed continuously since the late 1700s. Highland County is the smallest in Virginia and one of the least populated areas east of the Mississippi River. “Because our climate is more like Vermont's, we are well-known for our maple syrup,” Caroline explains. “But our high elevation, plentiful water supply, and lush forages also make Highland County an ideal place to raise livestock.”
Caroline grew up in Colorado and spent as much time as she could with her farming uncles. As an adult, she became increasingly concerned about the overuse of antibiotics in intensive farming systems. She also began to read more about sustainable farming, from writers like Wendell Berry, Charles Walters, and Wes Jackson. So when she and her family had the chance to move to the country, they bought a neglected farm and began restoring it, with the intention of farming in a truly sustainable manner.
With the help of Steve Rogers, farm manager at Healing Farm, Caroline and her family now raise Angus cattle and market the beef in their community. “We chose Angus cattle because they are good foragers. Because we work with them every day, they are easy to move from one pasture to another,” explains Caroline. “They are born and raised throughout their lives in a good place, and we are fortunate to have a slaughter plant that we trust in our community and that AWA recommended for beef cattle.”
Caroline says one of the most important aspects of managing Healing Farm starts from the ground up: “If you take care of your grass, your grass will take care of your cattle.” Healing Farm is a pasture-based system and Caroline explains they use grain only as a supplement feed: “During the coldest part of winter, we feed our pregnant moms grain in the morning, so we can check to see that everyone is healthy and to help keep up their strength. Ninety days before we slaughter, we give each steer a half bucket of grain. I think it makes the meat taste better, and it's easier to cook.”
Caroline became AWA-certified because she was already meeting the standards and regards certification as “one more element of trust that people can have in our beef.”
Caroline’s long-term goal is to have a stable herd of 90 cows so they can keep good replacement heifers and have 70 or so animals to sell as beef each year. AWA beef from Healing Farm is available at area restaurants and retailers, as well as directly to consumers by contacting email@example.com. For more information, visit www.healingfarmhighland.com or keep up to date on the Healing Farm Facebook page.