By Animal Welfare Approved
| November 15, 2013
Shamrock Artisan Goat Cheese has its origins in a 4-H project that Ana Cox’s daughter began more than 40 years ago in California’s Monterey County. By the time Ana married her husband, Gilbert Cox, in 1983, the project had grown into a small business, shipping goat milk to San Luis Obispo County at a low wholesale price for processing. Although Gilbert had no experience with goats or farming, he was a natural and the couple continued to grow the business. They soon came to the conclusion, however, that purchasing hay, producing milk, then selling it cheaply and shipping it away made little sense, and began looking for a place where they could control their entire operation and add value to their milk.
Benji Anderson raises Animal Welfare Approved pigs in northeast Georgia, just outside of Athens. A Georgia native, Benji grew up watching his uncle farm and developed a love of agriculture at an early age. After college and a brief stint as a biologist, Benji came back to farming. He worked for three years at a local farm raising pastured hogs and row crops, during which time he saved up enough money to put a down payment on his own farm.
Lone Fir Friesians Ranch has been in Inga Thompson’s family since 1918, making her son, Tyler Newberry, the fourth generation rancher to live and work on their land. The 160-acre ranch borders the Wallowa National Forest in northeast Oregon. Inga and Tyler’s small operation includes 15 Black Angus cross momma cows, which they raise according to AWA’s high welfare standards and Friesian horses, which they use both in harness and under saddle.
Cynthia and Ira Houseweart have deep roots in Colorado cattle ranching. Cynthia’s great-grandfather, Edward Ulysses Butterfield, and his brother, Charles, were successful ranchers in the late 19th and early 20th century in Phillips County, and controlled many sections of the Colorado prairie. In 1913, Ira’s great-grandparents, Oran Charles and Mable Houseweart, acquired land to farm on Rogers Mesa in Delta County. Cynthia and Ira and their two daughters, Izzi and CeCe, live on the Houseweart Ranch as do Ira’s parents, Bill and Betty, and his brother, Cody, and his family. Izzi and CeCe are the fifth generation of Houseweart cattle ranchers.
C. Jay Page likes to say that “it’s never too late to do the right thing.” Her husband, Doug, grew up on a raisin farm in California’s Central Valley and established a successful egg business before he left for military service in 1943, but never returned to the family farm. He always dreamt of returning to his farming roots, but it wasn’t until July 2009 that the timing was right to realize his dream. The couple bought a farm just five miles from the farm where Doug was born and raised, and named it Page River Bottom Farm after its position in the Sanger River Bottom.
Ben Gotschall’s great-grandparents began raising commercial Hereford and Angus cattle in 1936 in Holt County, Nebraska. The ranch was eventually passed to his father and Ben was born and raised on land his family had been farming for three generations. When Ben was 10 years old, he started helping with milking and immediately fell in love with Belle, the only Jersey in his father’s herd of Holsteins. “She stood out to me as the little brown cow who was quite capable of holding her own with her bigger black and white herdmates,” Ben remembers. After a year of milking, his father let him choose one calf to care for and start his own herd and, of course, he chose Belle’s first calf. A year later, Ben used the money he’d saved from milking to buy her second calf and, through the American Jersey Cattle Association’s Genetic Recovery program, soon had a small herd of registered Jersey cattle. In 1997, as a high school senior, Ben had the top-performing Jersey herd in the state of Nebraska for milk and protein production, with just 14 cows.
Although Hamid Markazi’s family owned a farm when he was growing up, he only gained limited hands on experience with farming and chose a different career in geology and environmental engineering. It wasn’t until later on in his life that Hamid and his wife decided to purchase some land in McHenry County, Illinois, and built a house and a barn. The Markazis maintained a couple of pastures for their daughters to keep and ride their horses, and decided to introduce some other farm animals to develop their farming experience. “As the kids moved on to college to pursue their undergraduate and later graduate degrees, we began to focus on expanding our farming business,” says Hamid.
Amy and Tony Jagla acquired a historic 10.5-acre farm in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2011 that they expanded their backyard chicken operation into a business. While producing food for their family, the couple realized just how much they enjoyed farming. Now, with the help of two of their three children, Katlin and Tyler (Justin is currently in the army), they raise 300–350 Dark Cornish chickens and 50 Cornish Game Hens for meat each year. They named their new venture Platypus Flats Ranch after the animal which, like their farm, is a little bit of everything, and the flat lands it sits on.
Craig and Pam Knowles have been raising bison since 1995. The inspiration to raise bison came from their former work as wildlife consultants with the Fort Belknap Wildlife Department on bison and prairie dog management. They were fascinated with bison: at Fort Belknap it was possible to glimpse back to a time when bison were the dominant native ungulate roaming the Montana prairies. Wacheena, their first calf, came from Fort Belknap and she was soon joined by bison from two other Montana herds to form the original herd of five adult cows and one bull. Some 20 years later, the herd at Wild Echo Bison Ranch is now maintained at about 50 AWA-certified bison made up of the herd bull, Wooly Bully, about 20 cows, most of them named as well, and their calves and yearlings.
Joseph Griego was raised on a family farm where he participated in everything from collecting eggs, milking the cow, and making cheese and butter, to butchering animals on the farm. Since 2008, he and his wife, Ruth Ann, have been homesteading once again with their four boys, Castillo, Ronald, Joseph Paul, and Dakota Joe, raising livestock and crops at Ranchito Organic Farm in Mora, New Mexico. This homestead is different than the family farm where Joseph was raised because Joseph and Ruth Ann are using only holistic and organic practices.