FROM LOCAL FARMS – Nature’s Green Acres

KevinBeef, From Local Farms, From Local Farms - The Series, Kevin TV, Nature's Green Acres, Nature's Green Acres, Nature's Green Acres, Pork, Poultry, Regional Food23 Comments

Shannon & Danny Ruzicka at Nature’s Green Acres are pretty tough not to like, their kids are cute, their farm is neat, their dog is gentle, their land is gorgeous. But tossing all that bias aside, how they raise their beef, chicken, and pork is truly remarkable. Clearly heavily influenced by Joel Salatin [If you haven’t watched Food Inc, you should] and well read and mentored in contemporary sustainable agricultural practices, these two are operating at an incredibly high standard right out of the gates.

For example. I’d arrived early in the morning, and hopped in the truck to tag along while Danny did his morning chores tending to the pigs. First off, their pen looked pretty nice. Their water’s overhead and always clean, the ground was not nuked to bare dirt as pigs tend to do, and the animals looked rather…clean. Didn’t even stink. He proceeded to hook up the truck to the pen and move it onto fresh knee-deep-grass. The shocker: he’d done it the evening before. Every morning. Every evening. Every day. The pigs are on deep, thick, fresh pasture essentially every few hours. I probably looked a little stunned.

The good news is they do the same for their chickens. I had arrived with a question from my wife wanting to know why their chicken was so exceptionally good. It could be their ration of 90% wheat/10% peas [they avoid soy, the standard protein-rich item in feed, to avoid GMOs], could be the grass – I left without a conclusive answer. As for their Nouveau Beef – a brand they’re creating for milk-and-grass-fed 6-7 month-old beef calves slaughtered in the fall – they’re tougher to spot when you visit. They have just under 20 cow-calf pairs on 200 acres of beautiful land. The way I figure it, that’s more than 5 acres per animal. And it sounds like the next step is implementing a rotational grazing program to further improve the health of the soil, grasses, animals, and ultimately us. How nice of them.

The bottom line is I’m a huge fan of what they’re doing already, and where they’re headed. They’re happy to sell sides and whole animals [important to me], are completely transparent, and as best they know how are growing the healthiest food they can in the healthiest way for the land. What more could you ask from the farmer who raises your meats?

23 Comments on “FROM LOCAL FARMS – Nature’s Green Acres”

  1. bruce king

    3rd try was the charm. Interesting pig system; that’s the first that I’ve seen of that type. Interesting idea on intensive grazing pigs.

  2. Ian

    You MUST try the Nouveau Beef! We got ours straight off the farm! How cool to see it all in action!

  3. Kevin

    Karlynn – Glad you like it, and thanks for the post about it on your blog.
    Chef Tony Le – Thanks, I’ll try!
    Bruce – Glad it worked in the end, and I’m glad I’m not the only one taken by their pig setup.
    Ian – I just did tonight. It’s awesome. I’ve been converted on hunting calf moose and elk for a few years now, and am now equally converted to calf cow.

  4. Tanis

    Such a great job of this – I look forward to the others. You’ve got a great blog!

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  6. A Canadian Foodie

    Absolutely incredible information. Gorgeous Farm. Where are they? I will look them up on Google – this is a trip I want to make. And with this information, I will definitely not pass them by this Saturday at the market. To be honest, I have missed them. I MUST find them. We will definitely buy a side or a calf cow. This is Vanja’s kind of meat and they cannot pay for this kind of advertizing. We have to get more out. INCREDIBLE work, Kevin. I bow to you. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate – and am learning from – this project you are undertaking!
    I am sending the information out to my High Schools for the Foods teachers to share with their students.
    Shannon and Danny are two Alberta heros, that is certain!
    Eat regional sensible artisan food: LOVE It.

  7. john schneider

    It is apparent in watching this interview that there exists a disconnect between organic livestock farmers and organic grain farmers. There are organic grain producers a lot closer to Killam than in Saskatchewan! A grass fed chicken on ‘organic’ grass being fed conventional feed will still contain numerous chemical contaminants. Almost all conventional grains nowadays are desiccated with pesticides immediately prior to harvest and they are certainly sprayed in the early summer if they aren’t desiccated.

    You can’t talk about large conventional grain farmer flooding the market with grains and hoping they will change their “paradigm” and then support them with your grain purchases simply because it is cheaper than organic grains. I have a bit of a problem with all of the contradictions in this interview. Having a “purest” attitude in your farming operations and not looking for the cheapest way to do things would mean that you would support local organic grain producers as opposed to conventional grain producers.

  8. Erica

    I don’t know about the disconnect you refer to, John, but I do love the meat! Keep up the great work, Nature’s Green Acres.

  9. Shannon and Danny Ruzicka

    To those who have tried our meat and enjoyed, thank you, we love what we do! For those who are interested in buying, we will be in the Downtown City Market every Saturday, with the exception of September 11.

    Valerie, we are located in Viking, you will find contact info on our website. Please come out to the farm to visit us!

    Thank you, John, we certainly appreciate your passion. And yes, you’re right about the conventional grain and the sprays they use.

    For the past couple years (since we started raising the chickens and pigs) we’ve been talking to people about buying transitional grain, which is grain from conventional farmers going organic. They have to be chemical free for at least 36 months before their grain can be accepted for certification as organic. The grain they get off in those years is weedy, and poor quality because the soil has become dependent on the fertilizer. They have to pay to have the grain and weed seeds separated, and then they get the lowest quality grading on that grain. They get paid poorly from the conventional system, and nothing from the organic system. So in order to “support the local organic producers” we sought them out. We have yet to find one. We are always looking and asking if any one knows anyone.

    A friend of ours was looking into going organic in his grain production, but he decided not to b/c the cost is huge for seeds, the 3 years of little to nothing for income off his land would hurt, and the biggest issue he said was finding a buyer. We tracked another guy down near us who is letting his certification go, b/c it’s not worth it. Another couple we know said the same thing. And more of the same kinds of stories from other farmers.

    It’s not as easy as it may seem to find an organic feed grain producer. If you do find one they are locked into a contract with their buyer, who as the trail I’ve been trying to follow leads to Saskatchewan, Growers International Organic Sales Inc.
    The difference in price of organic feed to conventional is at least 3X the cost where a few years ago wheat was $4/bu conventional and $12/bu organic. Our feed bill this year was over $5000 (which is a hard pill to swallow), well $15,000 would choke us! We have to carry that cost till all our animals are sold, on top of the butchering costs that are again up front. We of course translate that cost onto our buyers which, take our chickens for example are $9/kg we would then be looking at around $11/kg roughly so an average bird costing $16.36 would cost $20 that’s a lot for a 4lb chicken!

    Another thing to remember is that “Organic” grain has as many gray areas as any other “organic” sector. Organic grain doesn’t mean they simply stick a seed in the ground, let nature take it’s course, and in the fall come back and harvest. There is a list of permitted substances for soil amendments and crop nutrition, crop production aids and materials as well as weed management, which is available here on the Canadian General Standards Council. .

    Yes there is a certain disconnect between organic grain and organic livestock producers, because they sell on completely different markets. They don’t feed each other as one would expect. It’s just like any other commodity; it’s imported and exported all around the world. And the majority of small organic grain producers that sell direct to individuals are selling food (human) grade grain, not feed (animal) grade grains.

    When an animal is outside, healthy, not stressed, eating the grass and alfalfa; which alkalizes and detoxifies the body, it’s liver is better able to cleanse it’s system, but your right it’s not pure. While “pure” may not currently describe our pigs and chickens, we believe it is the path that we are on.

    So if anyone knows a transitional grain farmer (feed wheat and peas and barley) we’d love to be feeding the other systems cast offs to encourage more organic farmers, and to “purify” our system while still keeping our prices reasonable.

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  18. shannon

    You mentioned that you feed your chickens 90% wheat and 10% peas…. is the wheat wheat berries and what kind of peas? Are they fresh, dried, green peas, black eyed peas???
    Thank you

  19. Nicolas Mandin

    It’ll be interesting to see in the future how the possible rise of cultured meat products on the market may affect small farm owners such as these.
    Ideally it would result in true farmed products becoming a luxury food item allowing small farms to sell at a premium instead of having to compete in the market in whatever ways they do with the current industry.

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