In this episode, Adam Mason, who operates HEAL Farms, shares his journey into the world of sustainable farming, from developing an interest in farming, setting up agricultural systems in a Haitian orphanage, to finally establishing his own farming operation during the pandemic. He discusses the challenges of direct marketing farm produce and the importance of wise purchasing decisions. He also delves into a unique approach to land restoration using pigs, his experiences in applying the teachings from Joel Salatin’s book, Polyface Designs, and his use of social media for farm transparency and reaching wider audiences.
These transcriptions are automatically generated. Please excuse any errors in the text.
0:00:00 – Cal Hardage
Welcome to the Grazing Grass Podcast, episode 66.
0:00:05 – Adam Mason
By the time I started I had accumulated so much knowledge for grazing and had that experience that I wasn’t coming into it real green.
0:00:15 – Cal Hardage
You’re listening to the Grazing Grass Podcast, helping grass farmers, learn from grass farmers, and every episode features a grass farmer and their operation. I’m your host, cal Hardeech. On today’s episode we have Adam Mason of Hill Farms. I think you’re going to enjoy his story and the greater purpose he finds with his farm. Also, something that I think you’ll enjoy is how he got started. I think you’ll enjoy it.
First 10 seconds about my farm. Last week I mentioned we got quite a bit of rain. It’s been super nice and we got a little bit more last weekend, which is just crazy for July. But I will not complain about rain. But according to the meteorologist, the heat dome is building in and we are having hot weather right now. What does that do for the farm? It makes me not want to work. I’m not a fan of 102 and well, if it hits triple digits, I’m not a fan.
But the bigger issue for me right now and we’re going to talk about one of my least farms, the cericia lespedeza, has just grown so wonderfully but it’s shading a lot out and it’s gotten so mature. My cows are not wanting to eat it very good Now. They will graze it slowly, but it’s a last choice for them, and as much cericia lespedeza that I have in the pasture I need them to graze it. So that’s the biggest struggle there. Johnson grass is another concern. One of the least farms has like a lot of Johnson grass. The other farm has a little bit out there. None that I’m concerned about right now, but I have heard reports in other parts of Oklahoma through the drought and the smaller or younger Johnson grass causing some problems. So you do have to be careful with that. If it’s able to be grazed, it’s a great forage.
Get yours checked. I’ve never checked mine and maybe at some point I should. I monitor it and try not to graze during stressful times for it and also for one of the least properties, the cows are grazing it almost the whole time it is growing, so the cows adjust to it some and I think that helps. And I believe I’ve read that before too. I really should read on that more. Anyway, enough of my rambling. If you have not joined the grazing grass community on Facebook, we encourage you to join it. Just search for grazing grass community and hit join. Look forward to seeing you there and let’s talk to Adam. Adam, we won’t welcome you to the grazing grass podcast. We’re excited you’re here today. Thank you, adam. Can you tell us a little bit about you and your operation?
0:03:19 – Adam Mason
Yeah, so I’m a first generation farmer. Our operation currently we’re doing chicken, turkey, eggs, pork and beef, 100% pasture raise and anything that requires feed we do certified organic feed. Yeah, we grow to a local customer base and sell directly off the farm some farmers markets.
0:03:47 – Cal Hardage
So you’ve got a lot going on. Is what I hear? A lot going on.
0:03:50 – Adam Mason
Yes, Plus, I have three kids under the age of five. Oh yes, when are you located? We’re just outside of Pittsburgh. We’re north of Pittsburgh in Apollo Pennsylvania, about 40 minutes north of Pittsburgh.
0:04:04 – Cal Hardage
Oh yes, I think Pennsylvania probably leads the states in number of guests we’ve had on the podcast.
0:04:12 – Adam Mason
0:04:13 – Cal Hardage
Yeah, eli has suggested a few people and he’s based up there, so that helps out on that as well, it does yeah. So how long have you been farming and selling locally?
0:04:26 – Adam Mason
So we started our own personal operation in 2020. I have been in the agricultural sphere for, let’s see, since 2011. That’s where I went to college and have applied science to create and that’s where it kind of started doing conventional grown vegetable production, I mean. So we were originally in California. I managed, I went through college and then they hired me on as the farm manager for the university and so I managed about 400 acres of. We grew about almost everything you can think of, because in California you can’t do that luxury of. You can grow anything from citrus to apples to veg crop. And then we did a lot of.
I was I helped with the pasture side of things, with the animal units, and always gravitated towards that. It was like my favorite thing walking pastures, looking at, okay, like where are we at in vegetative load, like, okay, do we have how much longer until the cows move, and then everything there was irrigated too. So I had to, like we had to pull the cows out, run pipe in there late, like manually lay pipe in. Definitely a lot of the skills that I have came from that and the knowledge from there too.
0:05:45 – Cal Hardage
So you mentioned earlier your first generation farmer. So you didn’t grow up on a farm but you decided to go into plant science.
0:05:54 – Adam Mason
Yeah, so I was in Arizona in 2010, and I was in Native American land and sorry, no, 2008,. I was in there, not 2010. And I had this vision that I was to grow food for people that couldn’t grow for themselves. And I’m like I’m in some very impoverished areas in Arizona, and so the irony with I’m a bit pulled is that I didn’t know how to grow food, so it put me on this path to educate myself, and that’s where I went to Cal Poly, pomona, and I started there in 2011.
You know, immediately got hired on the farm crew and just I told everyone I was like I was a hardcore capitalist when it came to my education. I wanted every one of my questions answered, but professors like I didn’t get to anything, anything by lesson. Today, though, you’re asking a rich question, like I don’t care, I want to know, I want to learn, so, but yeah, really, really sucked up everything with there, and that ultimately led me, after I graduated and got hired on as a farm manager. I was like, okay, when am I supposed to be like helping people, these impoverished people? And so we visited friends in Haiti. And that’s when you want to talk about poverty. I mean, that’s the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. So I visited an orphanage and we went into the boys and girls room and I’m overwhelmed by this stench of urine and I’m like I asked the guy he started a small orphanage. He was completely flooded by him and I was like, why does it smell like this? And he’s like, well, we can’t afford diapers. The kids wet their beds every night until we try to hose it out, but it’s so humid that these pads don’t dry out, and these are like these foam pads. They were starting to get corroded from the urine and I was like this is ridiculous.
So so I immediately got back and I started fundraising. I got friends and family just calling up about saying, hey, I’m going back, I’m going to buy mattresses. We got I fundraised it over $8,000. I went back by myself, took 300 pounds of sheets, clothes, cloth, diapers. I went over and I built beds all by myself over there. I got a friend was that how we got connected? She was she’s in a well funded orphanage and so she had contact with getting mattresses. But we got the kids like all set up over there. And then I went back four other times to build agricultural systems to help them grow their own food for the orphanage, and then also it was enough to they could sell some of that for schooling, whatever they need, and so it’s scaling it into their so they can do that.
And then ultimately led me to Pennsylvania. I won’t get through all the details of that, but when in 2020, I was finally done working for people and we were like we’re going to do it ourselves and it was like in the midst of a pandemic. And so when we called the nonprofit heal, which stood for holistic, environmental agricultural learning, and ultimately, when we, when we started our farm, I said what are we going to call it? And I wanted to call it heal farms, because a percentage of all of our cells at healed farms gets donated to heal. I always hated the aspect of the nonprofit. I felt like I was professionally begging and so I didn’t like that. I wanted to be able to work to donate to them, and so we’re utilizing the farm and supporting healed and on profits. So that’s why. That’s why our farms called heal farms.
0:09:21 – Cal Hardage
I was going to ask about that because it says I see, right here on your Instagram profile it says percentage of cells donated to heal the earth. So I was kind of I was curious about that already, so you really explained that. Well, so in 2020, you had the opportunity and you got this land so you could start your farm. Did you start growing anything, or do you immediately jump into livestock? What?
0:09:49 – Adam Mason
led me to Pennsylvania. I had two sisters that moved out here Like one was over a decade and then, yeah, they’ve been here for quite a while and so I wanted out of California. And my wife said, if we move out of California, we have to be around family. So just made sense of Pennsylvania. So I looked for a job.
It’s pretty interesting how everything was orchestrated, if you will, because as we found this job, I thought it was like the dream job, like, oh my gosh, I was working for this regenerative farm owned by a very wealthy person, and so they were transitioning to more animal production, and so I was like, man, I’m your guy and I was already doing small batches of chicken that’s up in my backyard in California.
And so when I came out, we had this huge plant. I was planning for three months during the winter time, and we had a very large buyer that was going to buy everything we grew, and then COVID hit, and then that was it. They said we’re not buying anything, and so the owner of the farm said that’s it, I’m done with the farming thing, I’m turning this into a horse ranch, and so I don’t really think about horses. So they fired me and that’s what I was like all right, we’re done. Like I’ve done working for people, let’s do it our own. And so we just went all in. Yeah, I went straight to livestock. So I started with chickens and turkey in the first year and then we had egg layers by, I think, the end of that year and they worked our way. It weighs into pigs and cattle the following year.
0:11:15 – Cal Hardage
Very good. Well, something you mentioned there that backyard chickens in California. So what were you doing there?
0:11:23 – Adam Mason
So I was doing. I was working at Cal Poly Pomona. I was the farm manager there and, like I said, I always loved the animal. So I was big at plants, right, plants was my passion and anytime I had freedom, in any classes, I always gravitated towards pasture management, forage species, like I was working on my masters. I was doing I was going to do that on grazing. So I was working a lot with the animal units and worked along with them. You know, like okay, time to move this. We got sheep into our vineyard After the harvest came.
We were about like first time ever, something like it was really really cool stuff that we got to do flexibility of that. I was doing that. But then we lived in which we thought it was like the biggest property at the time. It was a half acre house, kind of like you could call it rural for California, but it’s not. I mean, it’s like a track neighborhood and I started doing my own chicken, you know, growing, growing broilers, built like a salatin style and had built two of those and rotated around and then you got a irrigate behind them Cause you know it was the summertime, has got up to like 120 degrees, but yeah, and then bought a feather plucker and started doing backyard in California for ourselves that occasional with fridges and stuff.
So I I got I got some good experience with that. Yeah, that ultimately led me here and I wanted I’ve always for a decade or so before we started, I wanted to do what I’m doing now, and so it was a good way to do what you know be able to do what I love and have a passion for, but yet also you know the non-profit side, like getting able to support that too.
0:13:06 – Cal Hardage
So and I I think that’s wonderful. I also think that’s wonderful that you started grazing on a half acre. So, yeah, you didn’t go out and buy cows and put on a half acre, which makes perfect sense, but you did. You’re like this is something I want to do, and you figured out how to get started right where you were.
0:13:26 – Adam Mason
I got two sheep and I was rotationally grazing the two sheep throughout the yard and you should have seen it. I mean it was pretty awesome cause it was bare dirt Like they made a little like you know, bmx bike track in the back. What reasons why we’ve got in California. I had the sheep in the front yard and they got stolen, but yeah, so that that it didn’t be the ruminant side of things. But yeah, it continued with the the poultry.
0:13:49 – Cal Hardage
That is great. Sorry here, yes it is, but start got stolen out of your yard but just growing those chickens in your backyard and you incorporated the ruminants in there with a couple of sheep. Excellent, excellent. I’ve heard some wonderful getting started stories, but that has to be one of the top ones right there. Getting started like that. I love it because so often we tell people just get started, do what you can wherever you are. Get started. And and I suffer from this and I’ve talked about this on the podcast before we have my dad’s herd and we have my herd managed a little bit differently but but somewhat similar. It took me years to get started with my own herd, just because I was doing this other and I wanted to do it and I just I just didn’t get started. The most important thing get started wherever you are, get started. I love that. You got started in your backyard with some chickens and some couple of lambs. We’ll jump back to Pennsylvania. You were out there, you get this, you decide okay, you’re going chickens and turkeys to get started.
0:14:56 – Adam Mason
I think I had 700 the first year and that that was a big jump because it was it was going from. I think the biggest batch I’d done before that was maybe a hundred in a year. And so, yeah, go, go and go from 700 there and I think we only did like 20 or 30 turkeys that year.
0:15:15 – Cal Hardage
In jumping from that just raising a hundred in a season to raising 700, what were some challenges you had on that? That growth right there?
0:15:25 – Adam Mason
I think, logistics of everything, trying to think of challenges. Like I knew enough of what to buy for equipment. Plus, I was like trying to be very conservative with spending and I made some, like I think, some foolish. Yeah, in the beginning I made some like foolish purchases. It wasn’t terrible because I ended up making my money back, but like, had I known a little bit more of like the scale I’d be in, I would have guided myself in a different path and be like, okay, don’t buy that. Like I bought like a little lawn mower, a lawn horse or something like that, and then like a little trailer that it had and I would haul a 55 gallon barrel of water out to the pasture. Like I think I was going through it maybe every other day. And then same thing with feed and it was just way too underpowered. Like I should have grabbed it, like bought a quad and just bought a mid-sized trailer.
0:16:26 – Cal Hardage
You know so little things like that, but overall it was pretty good and that first year did you direct market the chickens and turkeys, yeah and that was kind of difficult too, because when I left that job I started at a friend’s farm.
0:16:42 – Adam Mason
So he offered to let us start our farming operation at his farm. He didn’t want people coming on the property so much, he liked his privacy. We were figured out so I was like doing delivery, like that wasn’t making money doing delivery so. But then we were going to start doing like curbside pickup, which I think would have worked good, but by that time I think after our first batch we had bought our farm. So that kind of worked out. But then, yeah, so everything was direct retail and it was tough trying to get Facebook and anything any local stuff like that trying to blast that out. But yeah, some of the customers actually our first customer of doing that when we first started is like they’re a really good customer of ours and very good, very good friend of ours too.
0:17:32 – Cal Hardage
Now on getting on selling that, meaning getting started, were you going to farmers markets of as well, or did you focus on 20? So farmers markets were probably shut down for the most part.
0:17:46 – Adam Mason
Pennsylvania wasn’t too regulated like that as much. But all the farmers markets are already been filled, so there’s no a despawns. You kind of got to get in there, like in the winter. Yeah, so it was. It was a very difficult time to like really get some traction. So Facebook was a big one. Just try like doing posts and like joining groups on there and like putting posts like that to try and get that. Try to get that out.
0:18:13 – Cal Hardage
So you went through that first year, you did chickens and you also did a small group of turkeys. I say a small group, I’ve not raised turkey, so one turkey would be a large group for me. So it would be a big group. Turkeys fascinate me and I keep telling my wife one of these days and she’s like, pumped a break, she got too much going on.
0:18:32 – Adam Mason
Turkeys are one of my favorite to grow. They really are. They have so much personality. A little difficult in the beginning, something they catch on faster than chickens. Other times they’re a lot slower. But once you get, like I would say, passed in the eight to 10 week old range, they become pretty bulletproof and they’re just funny. They’re just. Oh yes, you know, walk up to them. They just got a really fun personality. I really enjoy turkey season.
0:19:03 – Cal Hardage
For your turkeys and chickens? What breeds were you using?
0:19:07 – Adam Mason
Yeah, I do Cornish Cross for the meat birds, and then the broad, the white breasted, double breasted. It’s all standard, conventional.
0:19:17 – Cal Hardage
And you added layers in, I think at the end of that first year yeah, we got like 150 layers.
0:19:25 – Adam Mason
Those are actually getting suckled in. I just have right now I have on the property 150 new ones that are that’ll be taken over in the winter, and what breed did you go with for layers?
Cucumarans. That was the biggest don’t ever. If you’re getting into production, don’t get a Cucumarans. They are all mine were super broony. I mean I knew they were bad layers but I like that really dark contrast. It’s a dark egg but some of them is just like. So this next batch I have three breeds. It’s still still have a pretty color to it, but yeah, I did like. Well, summers, I do the Americanas, I still have those. So I have three. So it’s like a production red and every every hatchery’s got their own like name to it. It’s like you know. And then we’re doing white leg horns and Americanas, the Easter eggers.
0:20:16 – Cal Hardage
So you get some brown or light brown, plus your white eggs and plus your colored eggs from the Americanas.
0:20:22 – Adam Mason
Yeah, so still have like a really nice look to it. And then all those probably minus the mightest the Easter eggers are are pretty good, really high in production, so definitely having quite a bit with them.
0:20:35 – Cal Hardage
Oh, very good, I have looked at the well summers, but I haven’t purchased any. In fact, one of the guys I work with, he was telling me his wife had ordered them some, so I’m interested to see how they do for them.
0:20:48 – Adam Mason
We got those two. They’re okay, yeah, I would say, if you’re going to get something like that. I find, though, that a lot of the production Browns will eventually start throwing some spots to not not like the well summers, but well summer, yeah, they did pretty good.
0:21:04 – Cal Hardage
Right, and in the varieties you have, you can visually discriminate what breed they are pretty easily, which I think there’s some advantages to that. If you’re rotating, if you’re replacing, like all your production reds this year and next year, you’re going to get something like that and next year you’ll replace the white legged or or however you want to do it. Having having distinct breeds really, or hybrids, really helps in that there’s a you got to start, you just got to start.
There we go, yes, yeah, my wife will be so excited. You’re starting. What now? 30s and layers? Are you kidding?
0:21:40 – Adam Mason
0:21:41 – Cal Hardage
Actually, to be honest, I do lay, I do raise a few layers each year but I sell them whenever they’re about ready to start laying, Because backyard chicken producers who want three or four hens hey, really nicely for those hens they pay much more than I would ever pay. So I try and raise a few breeds that I like each year and they do pretty good. I mean, I’m an hour from Tulsa so I get people from Tulsa. Probably the furthest I’ve had someone drive to buy ready to lay pullets they drove from Oklahoma City which just floored me, but they wanted, they wanted pullets ready to lay and they wanted just they wanted pretty chickens and I was happy to oblige.
0:22:31 – Adam Mason
Yeah, that’s great. I started. I was knowing that I was getting into Kohlling like this year and so I started. People sort of called me like crazy, yeah, I got them, you’ll get. You’ll get a little bit of production out of them. You know I wanted peak production but you’ll still get. And so, yeah, we sold off probably 25 of them and for 15 bucks a piece. Like you know that that’s totally worth it. I mean, like I did the ROI for them, thinking like, yeah, you’ll make that back in like you know a month or two, and then you know I’m getting all that money back that I put into it.
0:23:06 – Cal Hardage
So and you’re not having to dress a old hen and so where as a stew chicken, stew hen, yeah, yeah, so I kind of worked out. Good, now you made it through your first year, then you added pork.
0:23:20 – Adam Mason
Yeah, I bought two Magdalita pig. There was like a breeding pair. It was $20. I had to drive to New Jersey, was like six hour drive. But they gave me like all this free stuff, like pig feeder and all the stuff. They’re like we just want to get rid of it. We’re getting out of it. One I sold to somebody that was just gonna take it to a sale bar. I ended up getting some other ones like what we got pigs might as well more. You know what’s the difference of two versus you know five and then bred those and the. The. The pigs have been Really an incredible tool on our farm that we utilized. That is a tough animal to manage.
0:23:58 – Cal Hardage
So just just expand upon that a little bit on your management of the pigs and some challenges You’ve had there before we bought the property.
0:24:07 – Adam Mason
The previous owners had logged this area and he was an older gentleman and couldn’t like keep up on the crew. When they came in or logged they left every single crooked bridge, all the slash they left in this one area. And this, this one area, I would say it’s probably about seven acres, completely overgrown with blackberry, multi-flower rows, autumn olive Barberry, like the worst weeds you could possibly think of, and it was. It was literally so thick that you could not see three feet in front of you. And so I go in with a chainsaw, cut a line through and lay the electric, you know wire down. And the pigs, it’s just incredible. I mean, they, they took these areas and you’re like, oh, there was all these logs in there. Credit to we had that whole area was like really thick with black locusts. You know anything about black oak is it does not run, so that that is like three times better than pressure treated lumber. And so that’s it on the ground. It it’ll completely outlive me. That’ll be there 80 years, you know, in the right, in the right conditions. So so, yeah, so these branches were just all over the place, but the pigs like took out and as we, as we started to breed the pigs, I think the most. We got up to with 19. That was just like a high horsepower Machine. It would just come in, they would just tank these areas completely down and I kind of pushed the limit sometimes With how long I kept them, kept them in in an area, and sometimes a little too long, sometimes probably not enough, they come in and they this area is is so incredible now.
So we once we got all that wood exposed, nothing other to do than burn it. So we in the wintertime will go, we would go out and just gather all these in these big piles. Sometimes we burn it for two weeks straight. I’m just pulling logs. You know these, these big infertile flames, laster, rainstorms and everything like just you know and and clean the heck out of these areas. And now Native grasses are coming. We got deer grass, a lot of incredible, like high quality forage Species for cows and pigs, whatever you know, whatever you’re grazing is now coming up in these areas. And it’s all because of the pigs. And now, like I give tours a lot and we drive through this area and I said, look it, because there’s some areas that pigs haven’t been. I said look it right here. I said you cannot see where you know you couldn’t see three feet in in inside of that area and the shoes. We pass this threshold of where the pigs had been. It’s just everyone. Wow, they’re blown away because of what they’ve done to really restore these areas to where we’re getting production. You know, a lot nicer of a habitat. We have deer now that that fawn in these areas.
It’s a perfect area for for hot summer days. Now I got, I got civil pasture, I mean we got locus and all these trees coming back up the sapling and the cows, you know They’ll nibble on the locus, so we’re getting good protein source there, plus the nitrogen fixing. And then it was a great spot for this Last one that we had a crazy cold storm come in with like negative 27 wind chill and we put the cows in this area and it, you know, all this wind break from the trees that surround there. It was. So it’s a perfect like extreme Climate kind of havin. So, yeah, we call that. We call it the savannah and it’s it. It’s starting to really look like that.
0:27:39 – Cal Hardage
So that sounds great and pigs can do so much. In fact, as you’re setting Setting here talking about that, you know I’m I’ve got a few goats, I’m running on some wooded area and I’m thinking how wonderful what they’re doing. You know, maybe a pig or two to root up some of those little sprouts coming up might not be a bad thing, because the goal is for me is to turn that into more civil pasture rather than brush. I can’t even walk through. So I really hadn’t thought about that till you mentioned it.
0:28:14 – Adam Mason
The perfect combo would be having pigs go in and then sheep or goats behind them. I mean you want to talk about cleanup. It would be an awesome machine.
0:28:23 – Cal Hardage
Now Are you farrowing your hogs out as well.
0:28:27 – Adam Mason
That’s where we’re at now. I Initially it was like, yeah, we’re gonna do Farrow to finish. Okay, you’re gonna do that I. You need to have, at the most, up to about three herds running three separate herds. We did not have the infrastructure to run three separate herds. So I mean I was like farrowing while I had feeder pigs I had mom is getting free feed, you know, while the feeder pigs are like they get free feed plus a bore. That’s just getting free feed. Like it is not the way to do it unless you can be have a setup that’s you know you could separate when they need to be separated. Yeah, we are, we are.
I’m going to Restructure how we’re doing, for we only have four right now and after that I’m only gonna buy feeder pigs and then just grow them because, plus, running pigs through the winter Is it fun? So I’ll let somebody else do that and I’ll just buy a feeder pigs off to them and then I Shouldn’t be able to get them finished by the time winter comes. I, I hated, I hate that aspect of how I started that. So, yeah, I would, I would not. I would not do that unless you have the time and the infrastructure set up for that.
0:29:38 – Cal Hardage
You talk about that and just converting to just buying the feeders. I think there’s lots of advantages to that if you can source the kind of pigs you want and when you you’re out there looking for the pigs, what kind pigs are you looking for?
0:29:53 – Adam Mason
so I did go with the mangalita and then I found Berkshire mangalita Crosses. So you get the Berkshire that’s like a bacon pig and the mangalita is like your Colby beef of poor, so really nice fat, you know bacon pig. And then he crossed it with a board that was herford and here and man these pigs. It was a four-way cross. These things were just chunks of me. They were, they were awesome and Unfortunately that board died. He let me borrow it that. It went back to his place for a couple months and, for whatever reason, he ended up dying. So we you know we didn’t have that, but I think he still does the the Burke Manga. It’s still pretty, pretty good cross right there.
0:30:46 – Cal Hardage
I hear a lot of positive about the Berks herford’s. I just think are are cool from the aspect of herford cattle, pigs. You know that red and white contrast. It’s kind of the same reason. I like Dutch belted cows or belted Galloway and Hampshire and Lackenvelder chickens. You know they’re all Black with that white belt. I love the idea of my farm having all the animals, all the different species, same color. Now I don’t know if I’ll do that because I like my Corrientes and they’re they’re kind of spotted. So the sheep, I’ve got Cotodons and I prefer the red Cotodons. I have South Pole cows and my red herd. I’ve got my red herd and my spotted herd and my red herd. Now my goats aren’t red, my goats are black, but I really like that uniformity, just the odd quirk of myself. So when you you’re selling the pork, I assume by cuts to your consumers.
0:31:44 – Adam Mason
So habs and in holes. So but I have it like we haven’t processed since last year. One we have. We have these four left, so we’ll probably get to the news Probably, I’m hoping, by November.
0:31:56 – Cal Hardage
I’ll get them done before before winter hits and in addition to your pork, you have beef cattle.
0:32:03 – Adam Mason
We also have South Pole. When I first started there was there was a farmer and I like that. He was how kind of how he managed the animals and we were thinking of getting low line Angus. I just like that. You know, the smaller friend, that whole philosophy of like keeping your the cow size, that body size is small, less impact to the pasture, more meat to bone ratio, and so my wife was kind of not she, she wasn’t involved in any of it, and so I started talking earth, I just don’t know. I just like well, what’s so like coming the pros and cons, I told her and she’s like, okay, so she started doing research.
And when she gets into research she’s like she did dog breeding for a long time, so she loves like the breeding aspect and like genetics and stuff like that. And so she started to get re researching telephone. She’s like kind of why on earth Would you pick any other breed? And I was like I don’t know, like you know they’re, they’re definitely more money, yeah. So, man, I am so happy though that that we went with that breed. That is just yeah. So we are, we’re very, very happy with the South Pole breed.
0:33:11 – Cal Hardage
I purchased a few different breeds my dad’s heard so lemmy influence breed and then we’ve tried a few different breeds of bulls and and I purchased some South Pose on building my herd and I’ve also got some lemmy influence. I’ve got some red Angus, I’ve got some different breeds in there and my wife gets tired of me talking about how good my South Pose look and how good they’re doing and it. I don’t know that it’s a fluke, but I’ve been very impressed myself. So have you got to the point that you’re I assume you’re going grass-finished beef and we just took two, two cows.
0:33:51 – Adam Mason
When we got her on like a discount because she was open, she went in. She was open again this year, had no excuses. So we we took down and got processed her in another one. We’re super excited to try our first beef. Everyone wants to get in because everyone loves beef. Right, everyone wants to start cows right away. Like it is a long. It’s a long, two year minimum. Before you start seeing beef production, let’s you’re doing, you know, getting like yearlings pears or something and growing them, growing their tennis show, but we’re really excited to try.
0:34:25 – Cal Hardage
So what’s your plans with marketing your beef?
0:34:28 – Adam Mason
Our plan is to put these boxes together like a 40, 50 pound box it’s probably around an eight of a cow selling that in a package and then possibly doing like like 25 pound package of ground beef or something, and then if like, if somebody wants a whole cow with your body and that’s one eighth in one box or by an eight boxes or we’re thinking was that. But yeah, everything is Everything’s direct, direct retail. I know it’s a really good way to like dump a lot of product or to sell off a lot of product, but, like I, I haven’t figured that how to do that and still still like pay the bills well, I think, talking about wholesale.
0:35:11 – Cal Hardage
We, we host, sell our our calves through the cell barn. Goal for my herd is to sell grass finished beef. We’re just like you said. It takes years and I am so concerned about Having a top quality product. I had some, some calves I could have kept last year, but they weren’t quite the breeding I thought they needed to be, to be the a better end product. So I’m just trying to be careful about that. I really would like to get there faster than I am because I still feel like I’m two years off from it. I’m closer now than I was a year ago and, I’ll be honest, does the marketing and selling aspect. You know we had Will Harris from oak farms and he was talking about the three legs of a stool and you know one of his marketing. That’s where I’m the least comfortable. So I’m hoping to Get into that, get started with that and do a little bit better job with it.
0:36:06 – Adam Mason
We’ll see there’s something about almost all farmers. I feel like we’re missing some gene or in our DNA. That’s like nah, I don’t do marsh like I don’t want to, but my wife’s been. She’s stepping up now and get on board, so that’s been a huge help.
0:36:23 – Cal Hardage
So there is a podcast that I listen to that I haven’t listened to lately. I used to listen to it all the time and and I go and kind of spells with my podcast. I subscribe to too many that I can’t listen to every week. So and I assume my listeners are like that, you know, there’s certain podcasts I listen to every week, no matter what, and then the remainder of the time I split between a few podcasts and sometimes I’ll get on a kick and I’ll focus on that podcast and get caught up. I’m trying to think, because it’s a farm marketing one.
I can’t think of the lady’s name, but she does a really good job. Some things she said on there it’s it’s forcing me to reevaluate and to think about my marketing. Not that I’ve I’ve done any really yet, but just just working through that thought process. So you’ve gotten started. You started in the middle of pandemic. You’ve made lots of progress. You’ve got lots of, lots of irons in the fire, but it looks like everything’s going well. What have been some of your biggest challenges to this point?
0:37:31 – Adam Mason
each Enterprise had definitely had its challenges with the chickens. There was this constant like the all these bottlenecks. So it’s like the basic things were like okay, how many, how many chickens I want to grow? Okay, how many brooders Do I may, how many shelters do I make? Like either kind of like the, the, the steps of what to do. It’s like okay, well then, like what’s the next bottleneck? So the next bottleneck would be like Freezer size, so like how we’re selling it. If somebody who came it was I’ll buy everything you got. Okay, that’s then. Now I don’t have a freezer bottleneck. My, my next bottleneck would be a trailer truck, so like that’s, that’s kind of like where we’re at now. So we were able to get used walk-in freezer. So now we got that bottleneck taken care of. But now my pickup truck and my trailer is my next bottleneck. So then I would just have to do more batches More often to fit within within there. But yeah, you can kind of go through all these different bottlenecks.
I I would say each enterprise is is unique in that. Like with turkeys, I haven’t even touched any bottlenecks. I don’t think we produce enough really to to be to get to that point. But the cattle is Lotta lotta help from Greg Judy if it gives an excellent resource out there and so many people he mentors a Doesn’t see face-to-face but his whole thing is fence and water and and, which I felt like the fencing I could only do because we had such a well-treated Breed, but the water man whoo that that was definitely one of the biggest challenges. So I was. I had to run a hay wagon with two IBC toads. You get about 500 gallons, a little over 500 gallons per per tank, and I’d run that out there with our tractor. You know we did have some existing fencing but not not all the fields had it. So there was some fences that or some fields that had. That was just single-strand polywire and like I mean, if they got out it, you know we just have to try to get them back in.
The water was such a huge headache. So there was there’s some good stuff. Jordan Green does. He’s does a really great YouTube channel on on pigs. He would be the great Judy of pigs if you will, but he has.
He designed this frost proof paint so you could have liquid water in the winter and I took his design and modified it and used a. He was kind of like a string and a float valve. I did mine with a ball valve and then a meter key. I would stick that meter key in the totes. I mean this dead of winter sometimes, like you know, the high of 10 degrees you just bust through the top of the tank. That had some some ice form over overnight and then you got liquid water.
But we had when we first started I think we had 12 cows and and I was every other day I had to try and get a tractor start and what did it matter what temperature was. I did go out, fill water and in the winter when you’re dealing with water, like I had my water sent up to where I could blow it, blow it out, blow the long out every time I used it. But that took like four times the trips of like walking down the barn, coming back up, opening it, closing, you know, open the air valve like a lot of a lot of headaches. So last year I was I’m never doing that again without without any water system. So we put in water and put in.
I have 32 water points all over a farm and total game changer. Like absolutely worth every bit of the investment in that and Night and day difference, like it takes me, without doing like a big paddock set up or something, it takes me about 30 minutes to move the cattle each day. Max that you know includes water, minerals, everything what you’re talking. Pretty much this is the same thing. So he says get your fence, shit your water. I do gotta get that water.
0:41:44 – Cal Hardage
Get that fence and then get the animals you learn, and Water is a pain point for so many people. So, yes, now let’s not end with your challenges. Tell us about some successes.
0:41:57 – Adam Mason
You pad, yeah, so some of the successes we had was, I think, with the pigs coming and clearing those areas and having the cows come in. I mean, there were certain areas that cows were absolutely essential for another enterprise. Like our chickens, when the grass gets too tall, you can’t pull the shelters through that tall grass. Plus, the chickens aren’t going to eat, you know, a 24-inch blade of grass, so we use the cattle to graze it off in front of them, so it’s a nice grazing level for the meat birds. And then they do an awesome job just maintaining the grass and, you know, keeping the weed species down.
0:42:39 – Cal Hardage
You know, all through different management practices the cows have been such a huge improvement to the land that we have Very good and that is so wonderful, and it’s always great to have those successes. Adam, it’s time we transition to our overgrazing section, where we take a little bit deeper dive into one of your practices, and today we’re going to talk about the bale bombs.
0:43:05 – Adam Mason
Enlighten us. Okay, yeah. So I found out about these bale bombs. So we use round bales here. They’re a really awesome way to hit in base of species or species. They just won’t graze. So normal winter practices we do stockpile and then we also, you know, unroll hay.
There was some areas I told you about that area with the pigs. They wouldn’t get to. The pigs just couldn’t get to it. I’m not lying. There were two-inch diameter multi-floor rows and so I wanted to push it. So this winter I took a bale you know, I take your netting off and I took my tractor, dumped a full-size bale onto like a thick patch of multi-floor rows. And the next morning I forced the cows I mean, they got to work for it and they went in there fighting for food. They do push and shove a little bit and they napped that two-inch clear off. I mean you know 800, you know 900-pound cow, oh yeah. So they just cleaned.
Now there’s this huge open area and now all the seed from that hay is coming up. So now it’s just like open area for grass to grow. And so now next time they come in they’ll be grazing in that area, adding more manure, yeah. And so I’ve done that now in a couple areas some real, real heavy areas and it just wipes out the weeds. So it is a really, really cool practice to use in a very rough area that the cows wouldn’t normally graze. No matter what you do, you know you’re forcing them in that spot and then you’re just blasting that area with fertility, basically a habitat for a grass species to grow, so then you’re hoping that that grass will out-compete anything else that’s coming up. That’s kind of you know, giving these areas the best shot for growing grass instead of growing weeds.
0:45:05 – Cal Hardage
It’s amazing what that animal impact can do, and with hay it gives you that ability to pinpoint where you want that animal impact If you have the equipment to do it, because getting that hay there sometimes requires a tractor.
0:45:19 – Adam Mason
We have a bale unroller and I’ve backed it up on stuff before. Like, what I’ve done is I will unroll about, I would say, at least three quarters of the bale. So I’ll unroll that out wherever I want and then I’ll just back the bale unroller right up to that weedy spot and take it off right there. So you’re, you know, you are having a mini, a mini bomb if you will, and that’s all with the quad. So yeah, it’s doable.
0:45:48 – Cal Hardage
That’s a great idea to use your bale unroller like that to unroll part of it, and then you get that portion that’s left and you can drop that somewhere that you couldn’t possibly get in there another way. Well, adam, it is time for us to transition to our famous four same four questions we ask of all of our guests. Our very first question what is your favorite grazing grass related book or resource?
0:46:16 – Adam Mason
Andre Voizien’s grass productivity, you know, is going over a ton of like research papers and stuff like that. What that was, that is a huge, huge book and you know, and it’s all old science but so, so relevant and gosh so useful. So let’s say, on the grazing side, that that is probably one of my, my favorite resources. And then, secondly, for you know, doing the multi species, joel Salatin’s latest book, polyface Designs. That book, in my view, that will go down and hit as his, his, greatest work. It is like Legos for adults. It is so much fun.
I built a couple of things from that, that book, and it’s just step by step. This is how much wood you need, you need to cut it, this angle, this lane, you need this many screws, and then you just go step by step and and build the stuff and it and he has every one of his enterprises in there, and then little comments, you know talking about little tricks and what he wants to do or what you need to do when you’re building it. But yeah, that’s a great book for cutting them. If you’re, if you’re, only if you’re, if you’re getting outside of just doing cow, you know you want the other species, it’s a great resource.
0:47:37 – Cal Hardage
That is a a book I’ve. I say I looked at. I’ve only looked at it online and I’ve yet to pull the trigger and buy it, because I’ve just I’ve wondered if it’s going to be that valuable to me. You’re doing a pretty good book. Talk to to encourage me to get it. Our second question what tool could you not live without? On your farm, I have a.
0:47:59 – Adam Mason
Leatherman wave and it’s always on me and I I use it every single day We’ve had the Leatherman’s mention before.
0:48:09 – Cal Hardage
I’ve, I’ve never, I’ve never got one and really tried. I carry a pair of linemen pliers. Okay, Adam, what do you know now that you wish you knew when you started? Or what would you tell someone just getting started?
0:48:24 – Adam Mason
All the operation side of things, I think I would like steer away from certain equipment, Like like I don’t think you need a tractor for cattle, unless you just don’t want to get water. But if you’re, if you like, have the money for a tractor, put in a water line, you know. But yeah, and then by the time I started I had accumulated so much knowledge for like grazing and and had that experience that it wasn’t like it wasn’t coming into it real green.
0:48:54 – Cal Hardage
Where can others find out more about you?
0:48:56 – Adam Mason
We do our all of ourselves off of our website, healfarmscom, and we do a cut. We actually just I didn’t tell you this we just launched shipping will ship free on anything that’s $240, $49 or more to like 20 different states, and then any anything outside of those areas will ship to it, but it’s like the shipping cost goes up. But yeah, so HealFarmscom, you know I have an Instagram. I try to do. I want all my customers to know.
I think it’s very important for them, it’s important for me that everyone knows where the food is coming from, and so I try to do stories on there every day. And so I try to, like you know, educate people in the social media Facebook and Instagram and it’s hard because you get, like you know, 59 seconds to like, try and try and cram down some information. So, but yeah, every day I try to do stories in there and a way to digitally connect the people to their food, at least as farmers. Wrong, we’re saying we’re, we’re transparent in what we do and that’s a way I can show some transparency without you having to come in work with me every day. So HealFarms.
0:50:04 – Cal Hardage
So if they want to reach out and find you, they’ll be able to add them. Really appreciate you coming in on and sharing. Today You’re listening to the Grazing Grass podcast, helping grass farmers, learn from grass farmers, and every episode features a grass farmer in their operation. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and want to keep the conversation going, visit our community at communitygrazinggrasscom. Don’t forget to follow and subscribe to the Grazing Grass podcast on Facebook, twitter, instagram and YouTube for past and future episodes. We also welcome guests to share about their own grass farming journey. So if you’re interested, felt the form on grazinggrasscom under the be our guest link. Until next time, keep on grazing grass.