Questions for All Farmers
Do you use any synthetic pesticides or fertilizers?
Do you use any natural pesticides or fertilizers? If so, what do you use?
How do you keep your soil healthy?
Do you supplement your soil with minerals or other nutrients?
If so, how often and what kind?
Do you have animals on your farm (for veggie/fruit farmers)? What kind of animals do you have?
Do you let them out on the pasture?
Do you use their manure as fertilizer?
Do you plant heirloom seeds?
We are ideally looking for farmers that are creative in maintaining a healthy and vibrant eco-system. They will use plants, animals and insects to enhance the health of their crops and will not use any chemical pesticides or fertilizers. They will be using animal fertilizer (ideally from their own animals) to enrich the soil and will also probably be supplementing with minerals and plant-based compost as well. If they do use any treatments they will be all-natural and non-toxic. You can also ask about farms surrounding the farm in question: are they organic? do they spray chemicals? are they growing major crops on a mass scale like corn and soy? are there gmo-crops being grown nearby?
Questions For Dairy Farmers:
How many animals?
What are they fed?
What supplements are they given?
Is the feed organic?
If not, are there any GMO ingredients?
Does the feed come from within your farm?
Or do you purchase it somewhere else?
If so, where, from whom?
How much feed do you give the animals (in pounds per animal, per day)?
How much time do the animals spend on the pasture?
Do you rotate the pastures?
How high is the grass when the animals enter the pasture?
Are the animals given any antibiotics, hormones or vaccinations?
Any other medications?
If they are at any given time, do you take them off-line?
How long do your animals live usually?
Have you had any major illnesses with any of your herd recently?
Are you animals reproducing regularly?
How long are the babies kept with the mother after birth?
Do you disinfect the udders each time? With what?
What do you use to clean your tanks and pipes and other equipment that the milk will come in contact with?
Do you give your animals a rest from milking each year?
Do you have your milk tested regularly?
If so, for what?
Do you test for nutrient content in the milk?
Do you test for nutrient content of your soil?
If so, can you show us the results?
What do you package your product in?
Is glass packaging available if consumers are willing to pay extra?
Ideally we are looking for dairy farms that are run by people dedicated to producing the highest quality dairy possible, not just doing it because it is a cash cow (no pun intended). The animals will be healthy and will live up to 14-15 years. They will be out on pasture as much as possible, will be eating grass in the warm weather and hay (dried is preferable over fermented) in the cold weather. The pastures will be healthy with plenty of minerals and no chemical pesticides or fertilizer used. The cows will move from pasture to pasture, about once a day at least and should be eating tall grass where some of the grass has gone to seed. The cows will most likely be taking supplements, such as minerals.
The cows will be producing a baby every year and will have a rest for about 3-4 months each year. If they are given grains, the grains will be non-GMO and either organic or grown “organically” at that farm or a nearby farm. Obviously, no antibiotics or hormones will be used on the cows and if they are given antibiotics (which should hardly be necessary with healthy cows) the cows will be taken “off-line” until their systems have been cleared.
Ideally the milk is milked by hand into a clean pail and then sold in glass bottles. Otherwise, they will be machine-pumped into a tank. The tanks and corresponding pumping equipment will most likely be cleaned with bleach (this is the norm). The farmer will most likely be testing for bacteria count regularly. They usually have a somatic cell count done and it can go as low as 10,000 (commercial pasteurized milk will have a bacterial count up to 600,000!). Bacteria in raw milk is almost entirely all beneficial.
Questions For Meat and Egg Farmers:
Relevant ones from above plus:
Where do you process the meat?
Is it an organic facility?
How are the animals killed (on farm or at facility)?
Do you use nitrates or MSG in processed meat?
How about sugar?
What kind of salt do you use?
Beef, lamb, and bison should be 100% grass-fed. There is no reason to feed grains (with dairy cows it makes more sense because of their increased nutritional needs as nursing moms) and even though grass-fed beef is more lean than grain-fed if you cook it right it will taste just as good, if not better. When you give grains the omega-3 content of the meat completely disappears.
Poultry and pork should be raised out on pasture and fed non-gmo organic supplemental feed (or from “organically grown” food from within the farm). Poultry animals love to dig in the grass, eat bugs, eat poop and pretty much anything. This is normal and preferred. Most farmers do feed their poultry soy, ask if it’s gmo, if it’s a soy by-product or just ground soy. The ideal feed for chickens will contain oats (much higher in nutritional content and protein than corn), flaxseed and sunflower seeds. They do need protein so if they’re not getting soy the farmer better have a high-protein substitute (peas or other). Pigs love the sunshine, which makes their fat rich in vitamin D, so don’t worry about eating fatty pork from pasture-raised pigs! They’ll eat anything so just make sure their feed is organic and non-gmo and that they live outside and have access to not just an enclosed dirt-area but a rough terrain woodsy kind of area where they can forage in the ground.