As members of The Livestock Conservancy, Eric and Amy Kinman are committed to protecting endangered livestock and poultry breeds from extinction.
The husband-and-wife team own Meadowlark Farm in Cuba, Missouri, which they started with six feeder hogs and grew into a full-fledged operation. Today, the farm’s polyculture consists of heritage-breed hogs, heritage-breed chickens, various breeds of cow and heirloom crops.
Meadowlark Farm uses rotational grazing methods in both its pastures and its woodlots, so its hogs can happily forage among the grasses and trees, seasonally getting their fill of clover, acorns, hickory nuts and black walnuts, while non-GMO grains milled on the farm supplement their diet. Meadowlark Farm is committed to these sustainable practices, which – in addition to supporting the local food system – produce a difference you can taste in the final product.
Meadowlark Farm practices rotational grazing. How does that work? On the grass pastures [in the spring], we do cover crops in different types of clover, turnips, oats, wheat, barley. … There’s a lot of red clover; it has a good root system, [so] it’ll grow back after the pigs go across it. –Eric Kinman We call it the cover crops cocktail because that’s really what it is – there are five to seven different species that we blend in there. –Amy Kinman Then, as we get closer to fall, we start to graze them through the woodlots, and in winter, we bring them back out onto the pastures and let them run on a bigger [area]. That’s what we do; we try to keep them moving. –E.K. Which can be challenging with the hogs. With the cows, Eric has a really nice system set up for rotational grazing; he just drops the wire down and the cows move. With the pigs, we use several different methods; we use electric netting, and we have some high tensile wire, [but] it’s a little more challenging to do rotational grazing with the hogs. –A.K.
How does Meadowlark Farm interact with the regional food scene? I think that’s kind of a hard question to answer right now because we [usually] sell wholesale to restaurants – that’s pretty much nonexistent right now. –A.K. We’ve been picking up our online presence and expanded our reach by shipping out of state. –E.K. I believe that at this very moment there is a great opportunity for us as farmers … to redirect attention to the local food system, even though restaurants are kind of struggling right now. There’s some awareness that we can draw to it, where the food supply chain can be self-sustaining locally. Together, we, as small farms, can indeed feed people on a large scale. –A.K.
How does Meadowlark Farm fit into the regional food supply chain? We are an independent family farm that does business with an independent [meat] processor, which has been working with private-label customers like us for 50 years. Our supply chain is built on trust and relationships with the people we do business with; we pride ourselves on our transparency with our customers, from wholesale to retail customers like Mac’s Local Eats. Everything we do is traceable. We find ourselves in this position because we have committed to raising our animals the way we feel is good for everything – soil, animal, people – and asking a fair price for our work. Our animals are prebooked with our processor through 2021 to ensure we can serve our customers and provide a steady supply [of meat]. –A.K.
Do you see a solution to fix the supply chain? Independent farmers need more power to reach consumers and build stronger partnerships. We, [as consumers], can educate ourselves on where our food is coming from and advocate for more transparency. … Researching and purchasing from independent family farms is the best way to advocate for a safe food system. –A.K.