ThorneBrook Farms

Cattle • Lamb • A Passion for Good Food

Our Shift to Grass-Fed: Why We Changed Our Model

We started the planning and initial building of our farm in 2006. The first tasks were acquiring land, saving some moolah for inputs, solidifying funds for the initial herd purchase, and preparing the land for our soon to be first group of yearling heifers.  Among all that, we researched, researched, researched… and worked boo-coos of extra hours covering our basis. Have I mentioned that starting a business is no small feat? 

We finally bought our first herd in Spring 2007. 

At the time we bought our herd, we were conventional farmers with a concentration in grass-based. What does that mean? 

It means we raised our cattle on pasture but still used medicines, vaccines, conventional feeds, and hay grown with fertilizers, etc. We were far from organic and definitely not sustainable.

I know… some of our customers and followers are like “WHAT!?!?!” But, it’s true. The product you see today was not the product we had back then. 

So, why did our practices change? There are several reasons.

We were looking for ways to streamline our operation and reduce farm inputs. Both of us worked full time and had started a landscaping business. All of our capital was tied up in the other business which created a special need for our farm. It needed to be self-sufficient, and like… yesterday. Also, we just didn’t see longevity in income potential doing things the way we had been doing them. We wanted to do more than just break even financially.

That’s when we started hearing about intensive & rotational grazing. Remember my keyword? Research, research, research? I am a firm believer in exploring a whole slew of methods and choosing what is right for you.

We were intrigued not only by the business end of things but also by the science showing how this model supported the overall health of the land, the animals and the meat quality. Studies show grass-based production result in a more nutritional and tasty meat. Content of these studies would fill a good 10 really long blog posts. So, I won’t go into it here.

Anyhow, rotational grazing and sustainable farming practices seemed to be the answer. 

In 2009, we shifted our business model 180º. We went from conventional practices to a sustainable, natural approach.

I {FarmWife} have always been interested in a simple, wholesome approach to food provisions. One of my favorite movies growing up was Walt Disney’s Pocahontas. Of course, I loved the plot. But, even more I loved the land loving approach to life. In fact, I dressed up as Pocahontas one year for Halloween and after that used my costume to harvest vegetables from our homestead’s garden. I was a lover of the land and dreamed about being an Indian Princess. In my heart, I’ve always been interested in sustainability and it was a natural migration to move to a different practice of farming. For Brooks, he grew up in a family that prioritized health, so the deviation was natural for him, too. 

Grass-based herd management looked like a fantastic fit for our lifestyle and goals. And the bonus was the potential to maximize our profits. The organic, natural , grass-fed movement was gaining momentum and we were comfortable with meeting the demand since it was congruent with our core values. We weren’t direct selling when we started this transition but it wasn’t long before we saw the opportunities open up to doing so. 

With the exception of perhaps one or two farming families, we were the only ones in our social network moving to change practices. It was a difficult transition as many of our cohorts didn’t like the ideas (and still don’t to this day). We were even called crazy and treated as such. And yes, this effected our farm networking and we suffered [friendship] loss over it. Like I said, we were labeled as Ka-Razy! ?

However, I think that sometimes you have to be the ‘Purple Cow‘ of the bunch. Being different is what brings you out from the rest and makes your business shine. For us, making that sacrifice meant our business increased and our foundation grew stronger. We also grew as a couple and business partners.

I can say that we are 100% at peace with our model and the quality it produces. Our customers feel the same way, which is invariably important! 

1 Comment

  1. You have to follow your gut and knowledge….never be afraid to be different – that is called “unique “. If you are successful you know it was the right choice. I love your products, especially the sausages ! Godspeed!

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