This past Saturday, my family and I had the opportunity to attend a local farm festival at a small family-owned farm in Roanoke, Indiana: Seven Sons Family Farms. Yes, there really are SEVEN sons…and no daughters! They range in age from 14 to 28, if I remember correctly. I had the chance to talk to Lee Hitzfield (the dad of the seven sons) while on a horse-pulled wagon ride around the farm. I thought it was great that he took the time to ride with us and share his family’s story, as well as share information about the way the animals are treated on his farm. We saw cows out in the pasture and egg-laying hens roaming freely…it was very idyllic.
My kids had a lot of fun at the festival (pictures at the end of this post!): they navigated through a straw maze, pet goats, a cow, and baby pigs, rode a pony, swung in a tire swing, played in a tractor-tire sandbox and enjoyed a few other kid games. They also had fun riding around the farm in the wagon. Seven Sons served a great lunch too: grass-fed beef brisket sandwiches, homemade baked beans, a seriously awesome salad (I want the recipe!), baby carrots, and organic yogurt. They even made a point to tell us that everything was GMO-free!
However, what I’m most excited about is the meat we purchased from their store. They had a big variety to choose from available in several freezers and refrigerators. I had to pick and choose what I wanted to try first. We ended up buying bulk sausage, breakfast sausage patties, chicken breasts, and two pounds of ground sirloin. I also bought some maple syrup (because I was almost out of the container I bought this summer at the local Farmers’ Market). The prices on some items were a little higher than what I pay at the grocery store (and some were the same), but I like knowing how well these animals are being raised and fed. Plus, it’s great to support local farms when I have the opportunity. I’m hoping to be a long term customer of theirs! I’m still working on eating more plant-based meals, but when we do eat meat, I’m hoping to buy most of what we need from Seven Sons Family Farms.
Seven Sons is part of a new breed of farmers who are challenging the conventional wisdom of today. Animals are meant to eat what they find in the wild. Nutritional quality is far better when animals are raised using responsible production practices, allowed to live in the environment they were created to live in and allowed to eat the foods they were created to eat. If you haven’t found a local farm like this around you, I recommend checking out www.localharvest.org. It’s been a great resource for me to find all varieties of local farms, farmers’ markets, CSAs, and more.
Here is why I support Seven Sons Family Farms*…
Their calves begin their lives eating grass and drinking milk, while living a low-stress life. Once the calves are weaned, they are taken to the grassy finishing pastures until they reach 1,000 pounds. They are 100% grass and plant forage-fed (meaning they are never fed grain). They also have never been fed drugs or antibiotics. In a typical commercial feed lot, antibiotics are administered daily in order to help manage the highly concentrated grain diets and cramped living spaces. Grass diets eliminate this concern. Seven Sons’ cattle have also never been given hormones, steroids, artificial growth stimulants or animal by-products.
While touring the farm on the horse-drawn wagon, we saw hens that had free range of large areas of pasture. Most eggs you find in the store today come from factory farms where laying hens are caged and given no other choice but to eat medicated feeds and animal by-products that provide a cheap source of protein. The hens that Seven Sons Farm raises live in a large barn with bedded floor space, secluded egg nest boxes, natural lighting cycles and fresh air ventilation. Weather permitting, hens are also given access to pastures where they can enjoy the natural sunlight and scratch around while foraging for green plants and insects. They also feed them top quality feed made from their own corn and soybeans. The healthier the hen, the more nutritious eggs they lay!
And as far as their chickens and turkeys, they are also raised in open fields with lots of sunshine and fresh air. Their food consists of fresh grass, leaves, plant roots and all the little bugs, worms and small critters they can find. The birds are given access to free choice feed which consist mainly of ground seeds like corn & soybeans, mixed with plenty of vitamins and minerals. No drugs and no antibiotics of any kind. Seven Sons free-range birds are in a class all of their own. Many products in stores claim ‘natural’ or ‘free-range.’ This simply means that the birds did not spend their entire lives cooped up in cages. Actually, almost all poultry can be labeled “free-range.” Conventional meat birds (think, Tyson & Perdue) are raised in large barns where thousands of birds roam about on concrete or dirt/manure packed floors, usually without access to the outdoors. Because these birds are raised in such large numbers and are not given proper access to sunshine and fresh air, disease becomes a big problem. Producers are left with nothing else to do but give the birds drugs and antibiotics, which eventually filters down to the consumer. Their diets consist of medicated feeds mixed with the remains of dead chickens for added protein. The result of these irresponsible production practices is a very unhealthy and tasteless product. This is the kind of meat you will find in almost every grocery store and fast food restaurant. (I watched ‘undercover footage’ of these practices in the documentary “Food, Inc.” and it definitely made me re-consider the meat we buy. I don’t think I’ve purchased conventional meat from these companies ever since watching it! I would HIGHLY recommend that documentary to anyone…VERY eye-opening! Seriously…)
And same idea with Seven Sons’ pigs. They will spend most of their time rooting around in the woods eating all kinds of things like plants, roots, leaves and wild berries. When they’re not eating, they will probably be either relaxing or having fun taking a mud bath!
A few of my pictures from the Farm Festival:
(The farm festival was held as an opportunity to raise money for a small, traditional pig farmer in Michigan that is fighting his way through the legal system to keep his pigs and farm. His story has gained national attention.)
*Most of the animal-practices information in this article was summarized from what I found on Seven Sons Family Farm’s website.