On my way to the farm every morning, I slow down as I pass Fleetwood Farm to see if I can pick out Sam, the Maremma on duty, from the rams and ewes he guards day and night. I usually can’t, but I’m hopeful that one of these days I’ll spot him and then – like riding a bicycle – will be able to spot the dog(s) in a herd anywhere.
Last week, I volunteered to take some leftover produce to the mulefoot hogs so that I could spend a little time with the new lambs and Sam. Walt Feasel was there, working with a border collie in one of the fields, but took a break to introduce me to the new crop of babies, chat about his operation, and even sent me home with sausage that my taste testers ranked above all others. Seriously. Two out of two meatatarians said it was the best sausage they have ever had.
Here are five reasons to love, support and purchase from this farm:
5. Sam. Fierce when he should be. Friendly when you’ve earned his trust. Once you win him over, he squeezes between your legs, lifts you up, and nuzzles into your heart very quickly.
4. Diversified livestock. This handsome Bourbon Red tom waddles around with New Hampshire and Plymouth Rock chickens.
3. The close-knit herd. Seeing them moving around the pasture together will makes you all warm and woolly inside.
The flocks of curious meat and dairy goats, “happy quackers,” Cubalaya Chickens, mulefoot hogs and dedicated guard animals at Many Rocks Farmare a joyful reflection of owner Jeanne Dietz-Band, the farmer and heritage breeder who raises these fine animals on 40 acres of carefully tended pastures in Washington County.
Built upon principles of sustainable agriculture, conservation, preservation, rotational grazing and humane handling, Many Rocks Farm produces and sells the highest quality heritage meats at two local farmers markets (find them here) and several acclaimed restaurants, including the famous Woodberry Kitchen.
Last week, Jeanne invited a team of experts (and aspiring experts) chosen to participate in *Northeast SARE’s “Reading the Farm” to visit the property and discuss how her business model, products and land use have evolved throughout the past eleven years she’s spent in animal husbandry. Like so many farmers deeply rooted in their land, Jeanne has never taken any shortcuts that could diminish the health and fertility of her soil or animals or effect the quality of her products. The result? The “read” on her farm was excellent and her products are in incredibly high demand!
Although meat products are the foundation of her business, Jeanne has added value to her brand and business with a line of hand-crafted goat-milk soaps that are as perfectly fragrant as their names are creative: Lavishly Loopy Lavender, Tingle Me Timbers, Mad Hatter’s Zen, and Positively Squirrelly (to name a few). Rest assured, if she runs out of the soothing soaps at market you can find them in the Whole Body Care section of the Silver Spring Whole Foods Market too.
Here are the top ten reasons why we LOVE this farm:
1.) Jeanne lists happiness, safety and health of the animals as her most important concerns regarding the farm.
2.) Each and every animal Many Rocks sells was born and raised on the farm and processed humanely by a trusted vendor.
3.) They use biologicals – USDA approved fly predator wasps – to manage pesky fly populations that come with the livestock territory.
4.) Jeanne’s eyes light up when she tells her stories about obtaining heritage breeds.
5.) There are two donkeys on the premises: one that protects the dairy herd and one that captured Jeanne’s heart and is the farm’s rescue.
6.) The nutrition and health of the animals is monitored so closely there is rarely a need for a vet visit – and that menas lots of money saved – however when Jeanne discovered one of her prized Golden Guernsey dairy bucks had broken one of his horns, she spared no expense having his wound tended and life-saved.
7.) Jeanne refers to the heritage ducks as “happy quackers.”
8.) Buffers have been planted and fenced off from livestock at the headwaters of the Antietam Creek (that originate on the farm).
9.) A goat is featured prominently on the farm logo.
10.) No part of the animals goes to waste. Leftovers from goat processing are sent to two natural pet food companies in Maryland who custom-make three varieties of dog treats.
*Northeast SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) is a regional program of the nationwide SARE effort; SARE is part of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA. SARE offers competitive grants to projects that explore and address key issues affecting the sustainability and future economic viability of agriculture. The program is authorized under Subtitle B of Title XVI of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990.
An interesting article was published in The Baltimore Sun this morning regarding a goat turned pet in Cecil County, MD. The Balunsat couple purchased Snowbird for several hundred dollars through a newspaper advertisement and have raised her alongside several other animals since she was just a kid.
Snowbird, who lives in a home with less land than zoning laws require for animal husbandry, was not the original complaint. A rooster was – and the family already got rid of it (seemingly without objections). Neither the law or the family involved are concerned with whether or not the goat (or chickens, dogs, etc) qualify or act as working animals – or about the natural needs/purposes of/for the animal in question.
The idea of farm animals in urban areas has been a hot topic lately as many urban and suburban neighborhoods are circulating petitions to allow residents to keep chickens for the purpose of fresh laid eggs. University of Maryland Extension sheep and goat expert, Susan Schoenian, points out the separation human beings have had from farm animals and processes and that there is a growing movement back towards that connection.
But this particular case does not appear to be affiliated with the growing “backyard farmer” movement – which begs the question: What is it that draws human beings to animals? Is it for food? Survival? Companionship? Or a need to nurture? To keep up with Snowbird’s story,