We aspire to create a homestead that works in harmony with nature to provide the majority of our family’s food while also generating enough income to make a decent living. We’re still learning and experimenting, guided by four main principles.
We plan to focus on breeds of livestock that are threatened with extinction. Although these are hardy animals who make delicious products, they've fallen out of favor over time because they're generalists instead of specialists. For example, their meat may be tasty but there may not be much of it, their milk may be incredibly creamy but half the quantity of the more prominent breeds, or they take too long to grow.
As farmers struggle to make a living, there is strong financial incentive to raise heavy meat breeds and strong milk producers. Many unavoidable expenses are per-animal, like identification and mandatory annual testing, and it can be difficult to cover those expenses - much less make a profit - with a low yield of meat or milk.
So why bother with these rare breeds? Because they're well-rounded, dependable animals who thrive in regenerative systems and contribute to the biodiversity of the planet. Their varied attributes allow farmers to choose breeds that are perfect for their individual operations. Smaller animals can still be pastured on small farms, most are hardy enough to live outdoors year-round, they can thrive on local forage, and they can generally give birth without assistance. Why? These things have not been bred out of them in an effort to produce more meat, more milk, faster growth. They simply do what they've always done, and they do it really well.
Low Carbon Footprint
We practice regenerative farming, which combats global warming by drawing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it in the soil. Unlike conventional agriculture (and especially factory farming), regenerative agriculture improves the resources it uses rather than depleting them. We value working with nature rather than against it, focusing on biological diversity, and relying primarily on internal rather than external resources. We preserve natural habitat to ensure wildlife can thrive on our homestead. And we’re predator-friendly, understanding that all animals do what’s in their best interest and are just trying to survive.
We use a quad instead of a tractor to avoid soil compaction and diesel. We also opt for battery-operated versions of tools when possible, such our chainsaw and strimmer.
But our most significant practice in this regard is deciding not to cut, store, or rely on hay. We carefully manage the use of our fields and the movement of our animals to ensure there is always forage available on the farm in the form of grass, forbs, bushes, and/or trees. And since there's an abattoir in Bessines-sur-Gartempe, our beef products will travel fewer than 5km from farm to table.
Ark of Taste
The Ark of Taste is a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods from around the world that are facing extinction. Members of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity travel the world to find products that are prized for their taste, may not exist in another generation or two without immediate action, and can be grown or raised without harming the environment. We consider all three of those great reasons to raise a particular breed or grow a particular variety of fruit or vegetable.
So as we’re planning our garden and deciding which trees to plant where, we’re doing so from the perspective of creating a homestead filled with food many have never tasted, but would love if they tried.
We recently started a herd of Bretonne Pie Noir cattle, which are prized for both their meat and rich milk. As France's smallest cow, they're perfect for families who like the idea of getting a year's worth of beef from a single animal, or who would like to raise a couple cows of their own on a few acres. We plan to offer whole carcasses (about 100kg of beef) and sell live animals to smallholders who are interested in the breed.
High Animal Welfare
We believe animals have an innate desire to care for themselves — to find their own food, water, and shelter. Factory farming has stripped most livestock of their ability to fulfill these needs due to decades of husbandry and breeding choices that prize high quantities of low-cost animal products over animal welfare. We find the treatment of animals in modern factory-farming systems abhorrent. The animals who are brought to (or born on) our homestead are free to pursue their respective natural behaviors and lead healthy, happy lives.
We realize some people believe caring for and consuming animals is paradoxical, and may find the very notion troubling. You can learn more regarding our perspective on the matter by reading about my personal evolution from a vegan to an ethical omnivore.