Entries in Heritage Breeds (44)


What’s in a Name

Pork + Chicken + Lamb + Beef = Synergistic Acres

When we were choosing a name for our farm, the most important thing to us was that it represented more than just a physical location – such as Four Oaks Pastures – partly because we didn’t (and still don’t) have a physical location.  Instead, we wanted the name to represent more of the how and the why.  That is where the term synergistic comes from. 

The simplest definition for synergistic is 1 + 1 = 3 or The sum is greater than its parts.  Despite what I teach my students every day, there are times when the sum CAN equal more than its parts.  Synergism happens when two or more things work together to create something not possible by itself.  In nature, synergism happens all the time.  For instance sodium and chlorine by themselves are highly toxic to humans, but combined they make table salt, a beneficial compound.  Birds on the Serengetti exist in a synergistic relationship with the wildebeest.  The wildebeest attract and stir up insects for the birds to eat and in return the birds act as look outs for danger and remove parasites from their skin.  Even plants growing in the soil is a type of synergy.  They take water, minerals and sunlight and create completely new substances that provide their energy through the process of photosynthesis. 

Synergism is what will make a small sustainable farm like ours productive without depleting the land.  By mimicking nature, looking at the entire ecosystem on the farm and using multiple species working together, we intend to create a system that produces an amazing amount of nutritious and delicious food for people in the Kansas City area.

So what will this synergism look like?  On our farm, we will raise cattle. If you try to raise cattle without any other animals on your farm (the way most cattle in America are raised), you end up with problems that we then have to artificially respond to.  For instance, large amounts of cattle produce a large amount of cow manure.  Cattle manure leads to flies and parasites.  This is where it is important to have chickens.  Chcikens are excellent cow pie exterminators.  They will literally search out, peck apart and destroy the cow pies, eating a large amount of the larva from them which will dramatically reduce the parasite population of the farm.  These two animals need each other in order to thrive naturally.  Cows need the chickens to exterminate the parasites, and the chickens need the cows to keep the grass mowed and attract large numbers of larva.  The two grown separately would not grow as well.  There are similar relationships between all of the animals we will care for. 

Synergistic Acres represents the belief that nature has given us a model of sustainability and that if we watch closely and learn from that model, that we can grow nutritious and delicious food that will feed many people while simultaneously strengthening the land that sustains us.

Just for grins, some of the other names we considered:

  • Abundant Acres – Taken already – but I like this one
  • Pasturized Acres – Laura didn’t think anyone would find this play on words as funny as I do – thank goodness I have her to keep me in check
  • GrassRoots Ranch - Also taken - plus although I like the play on words, our roots in farming are not much to name a farm on.  

Raising Pigs Outside -- isn't that how it's always done?

What do you think about when you think of a pig farm?  If you are like the average consumer you might envision a group of pigs living in mud, running around in a fenced yard, eating table scraps.  You might even think about how stinky the pigs are. However, what most consumers don't think about is that most pigs never see the sun their entire lives, never mind mud.

Here is a video of a very typical pig farm. 

I chose this video because it was produced by the producer themselves.  If you want to see more graphic video of pig farms, simply go to youtube and type in pig farm -- you will see some much less pretty places.  

I thought I might elaborate on some of the terms they used just for clarity

"farrowing stall (crate)" -- the mother pig stays in this area 24 hours a day.  The crate is designed to not allow the mother to turn around or move, therefore ensuring that the piglets are safe.  The stalls are typically 7 feet long by 3 feet wide.   She will stay in these stalls until the babies are weaned at 21 days.  She will then be rebred and put into a gestation crate.  A smaller crate -- only 2 feet wide -- that she will live in 24 hours a day until she has her next litter.

"closely monitor barn temperature to ensure optimal conditions"  -- Industrial pig barns are kept abnormally warm 24 hours a day to increase growth on the pigs.  The closer to body temp the air is kept -- the less calories that are spent by the pigs body heating itself.  One problem with this is that it leads to lots of bacterial growth.  Don't worry they have thought of that too....

"nutritious feed" -- industrial pig food is primarily grain based, but also includes a daily ration of antibiotics  and other supplements such as arsenic and growth hormones.  The arsenic is there to calm the pigs. kill germs and to make the meat more pink by forming abnormal blood vessels through the pigs body. (Relevant fact, doctors use pigs for practice because their muscle and blood vessel structure closely resembles humans.  Also relevant. we can no longer use arsenic to treat the wood we build our decks with because they were worried about it hurting our children, but it is still legal and encouraged to feed it to our food).

"clean comfortable conditions" -- Pigs live their entire lives on concrete and steel grates suspended over shallow manure pits.  These are washed down often and the pigs are often sprayed with caustic chlorine solutions to ensure they stay "clean."

"industry leader in environmental stewardship" -- I guess this is like saying you are the most friendly pirate or the most trustworthy politician.   



There is another way though.

Here is a video of pigs living on pasture.  Eating nutritious food, in clean comfortable conditions, with closely monitored temperature (when it's hot they go to the shade, when its cold they go to the sun).

 Another amazing farmer who raises all hundreds of pigs outdoors in open pastures is Sugar Mountian farm  

Which one do you think most consumers would choose to buy if they had all the information?

This is Farmland's (a Smithfield subsidiary) website home page.  Doesn't quite seem to be an accurate representation of the barn we saw, does it?  I wonder why?

Pork Label



Galloway All the Way

Laura Looking at Galloway cattle


What do you do if you are chomping at the bit to start farming but you don’t have the land yet to get started?  Well one thing you do is you drive hundreds of miles to go stand in a field and talk grass fed cows with someone. Surprisingly, I don’t often see this listed in any of the “stay”cation brochures I’ve read.  Regardless, that is what we did on Thursday when we visited Renaissance Farms in Emporia, Kansas – and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Judy Decker, the main cattle runner at the farm, was incredibly hospitable as she spent the afternoon with us discussing her experience raising grass fed Galloway cattle.Galloway cattle grazing  She has a herd of about 60 total animals (cows, steers, heifers and bulls) that she rotationally grazes on natural forage in the Flint Hills.  Judy sang the praises of the Galloway cattle, which she has exclusively grazed on her farm for over 10 years.  Some of the real benefits she has noticed form raising Galloway cattle are:

  • Great tasting beef that finishes superbly well on grass—no need to back the grain truck up to the farm every week with these beautiful cows
  • Gentle temperament – easy to work.  We had no fear of our daughters being inside the pasture with them.  As a matter of fact, the cows were more scared of the little girls being in their pasture
  • Fantastic foragers – graze well on variety of forages even the nasty, weedy forage the Flint hills is known for.  When the region you are raising cattle on is named for the rock that lays under the soil (FLINT hills)– you know you need tough cattle
  • Hardy in sometimes harsh winter and summer climates of the Midwest
  • Good mothers who calf easily and then mother and nurse their young well – so you don’t have to
  • Moderately framed cattle that lead to great efficiency – these are not the Arnold Schwarzenegger of cattle that need unnatural and unhealthy supplements to be at peak condition.  Instead, these cattle grow wonderfully nutritious and delicious meat on natural pasture

Judy told us stories about how her cattle had been put on some newly leased land a couple winters ago and were able to get an incredible amount of forage from unimproved pastures well through the winter saving her a lot of money on hay, but more importantly ensuring she had healthy cows despite harsh conditions. Wimpy cows wouldn’t of stood a chance at doing nearly as well.

Galloway cattle have become one of the top breeds I am considering raising on our farm for all of the reasons above and because I feel strongly that many of the old agricultural breeds should be conserved – and somewhat ironically – this means we have to eat them.

I have done some research on the Galloway breed and find them to be a fantastic breed for our purposes – growing amazingly nutritious and delicious cattle in a natural pastured-based environment.  The breed originated in Europe 100s of years ago in a place not surprisingly called Galloway, which is now Scotland.  Generations of breeding in this area produced an animal that is very rugged and is well adapted to harsh conditions.  It has a thick coat and deep body to do well in cold weather that then sheds for the summer and allows them to do well in the summer heat.  Galloway cattle first came to the United States in the late 1800s and had some popularity, especially in western ranges, until about the 1960's when feedlots began to take over and America's view of the ideal cow began to change to be better suited for industrialized meat production.  According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy there are around 10,000 Galloway cattle in the United States right now and are considered a rare heritage breed of cattle worth preserving. 

Thank you Judy for sharing your afternoon with us.  My only regret from the afternoon was that we didn’t get to buy a steak to enjoy when we got home.  Hopefully I will be back down soon and can pick one up.

Galloway Cattle



Welcome to Kansas City's Newest Sustainable Farm

Howdy! Synergistic Acres is a new farm located near Kansas City that specializes in raising grass fed beef, pastured poultry, and free foraging pork -- or shall I say -- will focus on providing these to people around Kansas City.  That's because right now, Synergistic Acres is a farm not yet realized for the Hamons family.

We are in the process of wrapping up our comfortable suburban lifestyle and moving someplace where we can focus our attention on growing great nutritious and delicious food and sharing it with others.  This will be a major life change for our entire family as we learn how to be self-sufficient and wonderful shepherds of the land.  

Our ideas of what it means to be a farmer may be a little out of the ordinary.  We plan to raise pork, beef, and chicken on a relatively small amount of land by mimicking nature.  Through honoring the animals instincts and capitalizing on the natural systems already present in nature, we intend to harvest food while improving the land.  We will then deliver food directly to local families -- making the trip from pasture to plate as clean and short as possible.  

This is where the name Synergistic Acres comes from.  A synergistic relationship happens when the interaction of elements combine to produce total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements.  In this case, by following natures model and using ruminates (cows), poultry (chickens) and foragers (pigs), we will be able to create a sustainable system of production on our farm.  In addition, synergy is created as local and sustainable food is grown and consumed.

This blog will chronicle our journey through this transition. We will share the good with the bad and the funny with the serious -- all with the hope that you will feel more connected with the food you eat each day.


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Synergistic Acres - 21733 Iliff Rd, Parker, KS 66072 - 913-735-4769
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