Community Farm Says Kindness to Animals Makes Great Tasting Meat
Who: Casey Hirth is a third-generation farmer who runs Old Pine Farm, the only Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program involving livestock in the entire state of Michigan (and it’s kind of a big state). Oh, and by the way, he’s also an 18-year-old college student working toward a degree in environmental biology. We know, pretty badass. He does, admittedly, get some help from his mom, farmer Kris Hirth, and we love that they’re keeping it all in the family.
His goals: One, to sell healthy meat: Old Pine Farm makes every effort to provide buyers with a clean and natural product. Two, to make his farm ever more economically efficient and sustainable. We like the sound (and taste) of that.
Why we like him: His cattle dine on green grass and hay; their hooves have never touched a feedlot. His hogs live the way hogs were born to live: free-range outside rolling around in the mud. His lambs, such as Lucy, Extra and Little Boy, get grass and a sunny pasture, and most of them are heritage breeds that have gotten a thumbs-up from Sustainable Food News. And his chicken and bison are treated equally well, getting their own grassy feasts. Casey vows that his animals will always “live humane, stress-free lives” and will never be given antibiotics or growth hormones. Veterinarians everywhere, applaud!
What we like even more: Kris and Casey refuse to send their animals to a USDA processing plant, which are known for causing their four-legged friends (and those two-legged chickens!) undue stress. Instead, they use a state-inspected butcher shop and sell only to individual consumers. By setting up their business this way, they’ve made a commitment not only to their animals but also to the members of their community, who can taste the difference and are doing right by their bodies. In addition to his daily work on the farm, Casey is an active member of Slow Food Huron Valley.
What set off the light bulb: In 2004, Kris and Casey, along with Kris’s younger son, started Old Pine Farm on 11 acres just outside of Chelsea, Michigan. But the idea for a farm business that put the animals first (well, except for the whole slaughtering thing), took root more than 11 years ago, when Casey began caring for three chickens as part of a 4-H assignment. The family has always loved animals and always hated the cruel way the industrialized meat system in this country treats them.
How it works: If you live in the Ann Arbor, Michigan, area, you can become a member of the Old Pine Farm’s CSA. Fall participants have already received guinea pork and will receive standard and heritage breed turkeys in November and duck or goose in December. Members have the option of a full-share plan or a half-share plan. Both plans include an assortment of beef, bison, pork, lamb, chicken, emu (seriously, emu!) and sometimes turkey and duck. Members also volunteer on the farm, take tours and field trips, feed the animals, and participate in cook-offs and chef demonstrations. If you can’t afford to become a member, don’t fret: non-CSA members can still buy most of the meat.
What you can do: Even if you don’t live in Michigan, you can still support the Old Pine Farm. You can also support your local Slow Food U.S.A. chapter by becoming a member or just attending one of their super fun events like a wine and chocolate tasting.