We value fresh, healthy, local food – sure. But the reasons why we do this run much deeper.
Without healthy land, there cannot be healthy people. That’s a pretty simple doctrine that we truly believe. We treat the land with the respect it deserves and that means we don’t drench it and all it’s greens in chemicals. While we are not a certified organic operation and never will be, we do practice many organic standards and are often times more stringent than those who pay for the usage of the term “organic”. We would rather you come to the farm and look in our garages, barns, coops and sheds – see for yourself the plants that are growing and know exactly what is done to the animals that are raised here. Plastering an “organic” sticker on the things that come from our land isn’t what we are all about. Transparency and visibility is really the only way to foster the respect for the land that produces our bounty.
To us, improving the land is a central task to our farm. That’s where the “Thistle” in our name came from. As a plant, thistles are not usually considered friendly. They can quickly over run a poorly maintained pasture and are certainly not something to engage with when wearing shorts! However, we looked at the thistle a little differently. With their massive root system that can dig deep into the soil they can also act as a channel of nutrient flow up from layers of the soil that are rarely accessed. They are sturdy plants who appear on damaged and recovering soils.
Most people have seen the images of the confined animal operations that produce the bulk of this country’s protein. Our values are absolutely against that form of industrial product. All domestic meat animals have instinct and some level of intelligence and we feel raising them in disgusting, over crowded, hazardous conditions is absolutely not allowing the true nature of the animal to be expressed. The addition of antibiotics, parasite controls and hormones at prophylactic levels takes the entire concentrated farming model completely out of our interest.
We believe that the animals and the land should be connected the way nature intended. Chickens are not vegetarians – their chickenness makes them want to scratch for worms and grubs, eat bugs and bask in the sun. So we let them. Pigs want to root in the soil and nibble on the grass. Go to warm spots and cool spots, wallow or not, all on their own terms. We let the pig express it’s pigness. We do all this while respecting the animals impact on the land and keeping fresh pasture under their feet. All their supplemental feed is completely non-medicated and produced from local grains in a local grain mill.
We handle and interact with all our animals to ensure their health and vigor. And when the time comes and they have lived the best life we and our land can offer them, their lives are taken with respect and dignity so their bodies may sustain all of ours.
Without a community of people and farmers who shared the same or similar values as us, this wouldn’t be possible. But we also feel that it’s the building knowledge in the community and among consumers, that is helping to shape the demand for products like ours all across America. That’s why we think certifications like organic or humanely raised or any of the other ones out there are not helpful. They don’t truly connect people with their food but rather let people define “humane” in their own terms without ever seeing how that chicken was really raised. It’s because of our passion and desire to improve the quality of the food people consume that we leave our doors wide open.
Our commitment to the community aspect of good food comes form countless family gatherings where the best meals fostered the best conversations and brotherhood. If we can provide just a small nuance of that connection – to the land and to the animals – while being true to our values then we will have been successful. We know that success will be a result of everyone that’s part of our community.