Type: Lamb, Mushrooms, Figs, specialty garlics
Years in operation: 6
Annual revenue: 10k-50k
(Average over last three years)
We have a plaque in our living room that I live by it says, “Nature never betrayed the heart that loved her.” I have always believed that we are stewards of the land. Living in harmony with nature is our lifestyle so when we purchased this 48 acre farm 16 years ago in the heart of the Appalachian mountains of Western North Carolina, my husband and I pledged to return her to the natural beauty she craved to be. Not long after we bought the farm we adopted our two boys, Dmitry and Andrei, from Russia when they were 2 and 3. Now 16 & 17. Brothers On Farms was created in 2010 to keep our pre-teen boys off the couch that summer by drilling 100 Shiitake Mushroom logs and having them sell them at the local farmers market. The business grew with the desire to utilize our 48 acre farm to serve the community. We decided to raise sheep to sell lamb by the cut, purchasing our first breeding pair in 2011. In 2012 we purchased five more ewes. 2013 was our first year full year of lamb production. The public response was overwhelming. We are the only 'by the cut' lamb farmer in our area and at the local farmers markets. Everyone was excited to see us at the farmers market and we'd sell out almost every week. Since that time our herd has grown to 15 ewes and 28 lambs. The pastures are now up to 14+ acres. This fall to improve our bloodlines, we have contracted to purchase registered 5 Dorper ewes and a Dorper Ram from the Biltmore Estate, who has a fine line of champion stock. The Appalachian mountains are blessed with an abundance of natural springs. Last year with the help of the USDA conservation program, we installed a complete gravity fed watering system for six of our 11 pastures with the waterline ending at our new 30 X 72 foot hoop house. In the hoop house we have planted many fig trees, avocado trees, garlic, onions and seasonal vegetables, expanding our season and production reach. We also have a half acre garden and fruit and nut trees throughout the property. During this last 6 years, I have tirelessly promoted “local grown' agriculture and farming. I was a founder of a new Thursday evening market in our community, revitalizing the local downtown square. I just completed the intensive NC State and Tobacco Trust Fund Agriculture Leadership Development Program. A program where I was one of 32 farmers selected statewide learning skills needed to bridge the gaps between rural and urban interests, to participate actively in issues affecting agriculture, and to foster unity among agricultural interests. This two year training included trips to Washington to meet and talk with the Senate Committee on Agriculture, meeting with the Chinese consulate to learn the struggles and successes of the Chinese Ag markets. A trip to the boarder of Texas and customs to better understand the issues and challenges of keeping our food and farms safe from pest and contaminants, a 2 week trip to Brazil to study their huge Agriculture export businesses and how we as American farmers can compete.
Inside the Farm
How is your approach to farming different than other farms in the same category?
Humane handling is our strict policy. We are different then many grass fed operations because we are 100% Grass Fed Certified and Animal Welfare Approved. Only serious farmers planning to stay in business long term would bother to certify. We set out seeking best handling practices from the beginning, insuring our animals are happy and well adjusted. We installed infrastructure such as heated lambing stalls and cross fencing on our pastures, to ensure the safety and well being of our livestock. We have Guardian dogs to protect the flock instead of using electric fences. In 2016, Brothers on Farms became the second farm in the state of North Carolina to be Certified Grassfed by AGW for their sheep. This is the only certification and food label in the U.S. and Canada that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100 percent grass and forage diet, raised entirely outdoors on pasture or range, and managed according to the highest welfare and environmental standards on an independent family farm. This certification is highly sought after by the public and has yielded us more profit Our family recognized the certification would help us to communicate our high-welfare, sustainable farming practices to customers in a simple, clear way: As my son's Andrei and Dmitry say, “Our Certified Grassfed by AGW logo lets people know we raise happy sheep!”
How does your different approach contribute to a long-term profitable growth strategy for your farm and other small farms like yours?
I know that we will have to continue to expand and diversify if we plan to have a long term profitable farm. The watering system we installed last year along with additional pastures and cross fencing is allowing us to raise more sheep per acre doubling our production. The hoop house being on the gravity fed watering system cuts down on our electric use saving us money. It also has allowed us to extend our season and grow more vegetable crops to complement the lamb and mushrooms making us a one stop shop for dinner at the market. Our farm tours help educate the public on “local grown” sustainable agriculture and gives us another point of purchase, the farm. With a farm store and small commercial kitchen we will be able to teach more classes and assist other small farms into becoming successful.We also plan to lease out our kitchen area to other farmers wanting to make value added products, assisting them with access and supplementing our cost to run the kitchen.
How would you specifically use a Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift?
As Josh and Brent know from building their own farm business, it not only takes a lot of hard work, determination, innovation and grit to make a farm successful, it takes revenue. We have managed to get a great deal of infrastructure done on our farm by utilizing our savings and supplementation from my husband's job. But with two sons soon going to college, our retirement nest egg gone, we are a long way off from the farm supporting itself without ramping up our production and finding other ways to sell our products. My husband has a background in the food industry, with USDA when he managed a frozen food production plant. We are wanting to take an outbuilding on our farm and make it a farm store and small commercial kitchen where we can produce value added products of things grown on the farm. With our figs now coming into production, and all the fruit trees on our farm we could make fig jams as well as peach, blueberry, blackberry kiwi and pear. We could develop products with our shiitake mushrooms, and use our avocados for dips. As well as create different herbal rubs and sauces to compliment our lamb. The mortgage lifter lift would be used to upgrade the electrical in the building, put in a septic system, bathroom and kitchen plumbing, repaint and upgrade the outside of the building and perhaps purchase some extra kitchen equipment to get us started in producing our value added products. Right now when people buy off the farm we have to invite them into our home and allow them to use our personal bathroom. It works for us but we can not do values added products and is not as professional as we would like. A real farm store will give us more credibility and give us a place to do cooking classes and so much more.If we got the readers choice I would use the money to buy 5 registered Dorper ewes and a ram from the Biltmore Estates to improve our genetics and increase our production.
Please share why you are so passionate about your farm and/or farming in general.
I came into farming late in life. Like most farmers I am in my 50's. I am genuinely concerned for the future of farming, the state of our food production and the health of our children. Animals have always been my passion. The abuse factory raised animals endure should be criminal. I never thought I'd be in meat production but when we adopted the boys, I felt it was my responsibility to keep them healthy. I honestly didn't trust the food chain. It is never easy dropping the lambs off at the processors but I know they led a good life and will provide healthy protein for my family and community. With cancer and auto immune disorders running rampant in the world, people are beginning to realize the importance of knowing where their food comes from and how that food was produced. Most people need meat protein for a healthy diet. Congress just passed a law removing the 'country of origin' label from grocery store meat products. Without certification programs like AGW, not only do we not know what that animal has been fed but where it came from. Both Mexico and China use the steroid clenbuterol in their meat animals and recently the NFL warned it's players not to eat meat from those countries as it is showing up in some players drug tests. My clients have asked for grass fed lamb and I provided it for them. I now want to be able to provide them with other safe organic products to compliment our lamb production. When people see the label Brothers On Farms I want them to be assured they are buying a safe healthy product for their family.
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