Featured Sustainable Producer Spotlight Story
Gray Dog's Farm
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Gray Dog's Farm, located in the western Massachusetts town of Huntington, maintains 85 acres of mostly wooded farm property. Fifteen of those acres consist of open, extremely stony, thin soil that makes fencing or trenching water lines a challenge. The farm leases five acres of improved pasture as well as a half-acre lease specifically for vegetable and berry production.
Gray Dog's Farm has been in business for about five years. Owners Ross and Alicia Hackerson, along with farm manager April Weeks and "apprentice extraordinaire" Michael Nord, have helped to expand the farm from raising a few hundred chickens into a full-blown, year-round meat CSA that includes pigs, cattle, goats, chickens, beef, and lamb.
In addition to the year-round meat CSA, Gray Dog's Farm produces strawberries and elderberries, and it houses a personal-scale dairy. As a result of clearing some sections of the property, the farm has a supply of firewood and native Goshen stone.
The farm also sells to farmers market and maintains an active website, however they do not participate much in social media.
"We'd like to sell more to restaurants and the freezer trade (whole and half animals)," farm manager April Weeks remarks.
The farm is located reasonably close to major towns inhabited by sustainability-minded populations. Another benefit of the property is the availability of water, which at times can be too much of a good thing. However, the challenge lies in the logistics.
"Getting it (water) where you want it in the cold months can be a job." April says."
"Land should be in use, in a way which improves the soil long term," she says. "We are working to bring some of the areas which were pasture 150 years ago back into grass, which is a slow process helped by pigs and goats."
Gray Dog's farm promotes a sustainable-farming philosophy by using short-term amendments, especially on recent clearings. Their goal is to get to a point where grazing management does most of the work .
"Ruminants should eat grass. Animals with simple stomachs should eat locally sourced, well raised grain and have access to grass and woodland, for their health and the health of the land," April said. Gray Dog's Farm's diverse property integrates these variables, which allows them to produce a consistent, high quality, natural product for their customers.
"Our first response to health issues is through management," Gray Dog's Farms states on their website. "We minimize worms by rotation of pastures, we make sure ruminants are eating grass, and we give all our animals room to move freely about and engage in their natural behaviors."
April also stresses the importance of preventative healthcare for the farm's animals.
"Medications should be saved for emergencies. A focus on good pasture, good rotation, and good genetics should be the first source of health care."
Gray Dog's Farm has utilized the ATTRA program by speaking with agriculture specialists for information on sustainable farming practices as well as connecting with apprentices through the ATTRA website's Internship Directory.
April sums it up. "Farmers should be able to make a living. Food shouldn't travel that far and neither should farm inputs."
Learn more about Gray Dog's Farm at www.graydogsfarm.com
The Sustainable Producer Spotlight is offered as a celebration of those who practice sustainable and organic agriculture and is not intended as an endorsement of the featured operations or products.
This page was last updated on: December 15, 2014