LARSEN — Justin Duell acknowledges that growing trees instead of corn on his pasture isn’t viewed as a common practice.
“It’s a huge difference,” said Duell, who has owned The G Farm since April 2015. “But trees provide nut- and fruit-producing calories for animals in the future. They can replace the same calories that a soybean or kernel of corn can for those animals. So, it’s definitely completely different, but I still think it’s a great way to do things.”
And he’s not the only one who feels that way.
The Food Animal Concerns Trust, a national nonprofit that promotes the safe and humane production of meat, milk and eggs, was impressed with Duell’s efforts and awarded a Fund-a-Farmer Grant to The G Farm.
“We are thrilled to partner with The G Farm to expand humane farming and increase farm animal welfare,” said Larissa McKenna, FACT’s humane farming program director.
“Small and mid-sized sustainable farms are essential to meeting consumer demand for humanely raised food, but often face financial challenges due to high costs associated with economies of scale,” she added. “Our organization supports farms like The G Farm by funding projects that improve animal welfare and help farmers increase their profit margins.”
Duell said the grant will be used to increase the amount of protective wiring for the trees (and soon-to-be shrubs) that he has been planting, thus improving the quality and quantity of pasture for his animals. He is raising 15 beef cattle and several rabbits and laying hens. Soon, he intends to add Freedom Ranger meat birds, turkeys and pigs.
The G Farm encompasses 27.2 acres in rural northern Winnebago County. That includes a 3.5-acre pond, in which he’ll be trying to produce about 400 perch for the first time this year.
“What I’m trying to accomplish overall is to produce as much diversity on this space as I possibly can to maximize the different incomes and increase production to the families that want to be part of what I’m working to accomplish in regenerating the land and having healthy calories,” Duell said.
Duell’s philosophy of regenerative agricultural practices is based in part on Mark Shepard’s book, “Restoration Agriculture.” The G Farm’s holistic approach has principles rooted in creating a sustainable, diverse and well-managed system. The pastures and gardens are free from herbicides and pesticides too.
A 2017 survey of grant recipients found that 91 percent of the projects remain in use, according to FACT. The organization also reports that 95 percent of grant recipients improved animal welfare, and 91 percent improved their farms’ financial sustainability by improving profits, creating recurring cost savings and increasing the number of customers.
In addition to awarding grants, FACT offers mentorship, webinars, conference scholarships and an online farmer forum. For more information about FACT’s farmer services, visit http://www.foodanimalconcernstrust.org/farmer.
For more details about The G Farm, visit http://www.theg.farm.