Several years ago I wrote a long blog post defending our choice of feed for our animals. The post was prompted by customers concerned that we used conventional feed, and was a great sign that environmental and health issues are increasingly on our customers’ radar.
At the time, the logistical complications of getting non-GMO feed that we trusted were prohibitive. Getting the volume of feed we required from a location three hours away would have required either expensive storage infrastructure with added delivery fees, or a huge time commitment alongside a great deal of gas and driving to pick it up ourselves. Likely, our customers would have been willing to pay the increase in prices to cover such costs, but it is our belief that the environmental and nutritional gains of non-GMO are dubious at best unless one knows the growers personally. Non-GMO operations can range from very environmentally conscious growers to ones that use much worse chemicals than the notorious glyphosate, and some use no restraint when it comes to tilling the soil. Years ago, someone had passed on an article that described how operations sourced their organic feed from China when supply dwindled. Besides the lack of accountability from such products, shipping from thousands of miles away does not fit into our understanding of sustainability.
Meanwhile, we were getting our feed from a very competent mill nearby that sourced 50% of their corn from local farms. This was predominantly GMO grain, but being locally sourced and milled, cut our carbon footprint a great deal, all while supporting the struggling agriculture infrastructure in our area. Yes, we lost customers, but we were not willing to increase our prices for no obvious environmental or nutritional gain just to please those who demanded a label that they understood very little; especially at the expense of local operations in the area.
All this to say that last season we made a connection with a fifth generation farmer a half hour away, who, between family and fellow farms in his area, is growing enough quantity of non-GMO feed ( and milling it on site) to supply the needs of our animals. Little Red Hen, run by Daniel Austin, has taken significant strides to raise their grain in a sustainable manner where the goal is to increase soil fertility and limit environmental damage. Our regular customers noticed a price increase last summer, but we can now assure our customers that our non-GMO status is not just a marketing gimmick but reflects the fact that we have cut our carbon footprint enormously with 100% of it sourced just 20 miles away, all while supporting a farmer whose values align with ours. A shout out to all those who have supported us through this journey of providing nutritious and environmentally regenerative food through all the evolutions of our operation.