Going chemical-free

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Healthier, more cost-effective among the benefits

By John Barnhart

    Ben Coleman, of Mountain Run Farm, decided to go chemical free after his son was born.
    “I didn’t feel good about sitting him in a field that I just fertilized,” he said. “We made a point never to bring chemicals down this driveway.”
    He has built the soil with manure and he said this has brought the soil to life.
    Coleman had actually been taking steps according to an organic standard on one section of the farm even before that. This section had laid fallow for eight years before he got it, 13 years ago, and became an organic experiment.

He saw that it worked and expanded it to the entire 1,000 acres.
    Like others, Coleman has found that raising grass-fed and grass-finished beef cattle and free range pigs has a double benefit. He believes the meat is healthier for consumers and it’s cost effective for him.
    “We have saved a fortune,” he said.
    It’s also more effective. He does not use insecticide, but said that he has no insect problems.
    “If you spray, the bird that eats the bug, he dies,” Coleman said.
    After he stopped using pesticides, birds came back and they are taking care of the bugs.
    “It’s turned into a good model that saved me money,” He said.
    Saving money, in turn, helps him keep his costs down. Coleman said that he hasn’t had to raise prices for three years due to the low costs of inputs in his operation.
    “We cut our input costs $50,000 per year,” he said.
    He also has been able to eliminate a lot of costs because he isn’t mowing and bailing hay or making silage.
    “I save $1,200 on fuel a year,” he said.
    He does buy hay in the winter. When he feeds hay the hay bales are unrolled in the field. The cattle eat what they need and tread the rest into the soil. This improves the pasture, and the cattle do their own planting because their hooves push the seeds in the hay to a one-inch planing depth. The only other things he buys are sea salt and mineral supplements. Coleman’s system allows his Angus cattle to do most of the farm work.
    He moves his cattle about regularly. The land is divided up into pastures using moveable fencing and he shifts them regularly from pasture to pasture, giving a grazed pasture time to recover.
    The only feed he uses is for a small portion of the diet for his free range pigs. They forage for most of their food, but providing some feed makes them show up at a feeding station and that makes them easier to round up when it comes time to turn them into pork chops and sausage.
    Coleman direct markets his beef and pork to the public.
    “When you buy beefsteak here, there is one ingredient — beef,” he said. “My steaks swell on the grill instead of shrink.”
    Coleman’s beef and pork is available in packaged cuts. These packages are prepared by a butcher and the meat is USDA inspected. They also have an option for people to buy an entire cow or pig carcass.
    They also occasionally have eggs and catfish available.
    For more information, on Mountain Run Farm, go to www.mountainrunfarm.com.