On Sunday we visited Up the Lane Farm in Johnstown, Ohio. The owners, John and Marie, raise grass-fed cattle on their pastures and are fixtures at the Worthington Farmers Market on Saturdays, where they sell their beef to the public. I know I’ve said this before, but ever since reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I think it’s important to know where our food comes from. And what better way to do that than meeting the people who raise the animals—the same people who are also selling you the meat?
John and Marie are long-time friends of Christine and invited us to spend an afternoon with them and their cows. They moved to Johnstown several years ago with no intentions of raising livestock. Then they bought a cow. And another. And another… They are now up to about 30 head of cattle and have turned an old cornfield into thriving pasture land. They are currently working on plans to offer tours of their farm, which I highly recommend going to see.
John is truly passionate when it comes to farming methods; he’s always reading books, learning and developing new methods (including an ingenious movable fencing system) as well as drawing upon old, tried-and-true ones. In addition, he gleans a wealth of knowledge from years of experience of his neighbors and fellow farmers. John practices a method called “mob grazing” where his pasture is divided into multiple paddocks. The cows are rotated through all of the paddocks, spending several days in each one, then moving on to the next; the rationale being that cows will eat as much as they can in an enclosed area. By confining the cows to one paddock at a time, their intensive grazing and trampling of manure and grass seed into the ground allows the pasture to re-seed itself (so as to not require chemical fertilizer), as well as allow the grassland in the other paddocks to regenerate by the time the cows are rotated back into them. John explains it much better in their blog. While we were there, the cows were transferred from one paddock to the next and it was quite an experience watching the herd move right in front of us.
Here is where I could extol the virtues of grass-fed beef, as well the vilify the farming practices involving petroleum-based fertilizers, growth hormones, and antibiotics. But it’s been said before (better than I could ever put it) and chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve already made up your mind, one way or the other. Suffice to say, these cows are happy (this, of course, is a subjective observation; they’re roaming and grazing and doing what cows do naturally), they’re healthy, and they’re raised humanely. And they’re delicious; try it for yourself. Just make sure you visit the Up the Lane stand at the Worthington Farmers Market early, as they tend to sell out quickly.