For those who are appalled at the way animals are treated in conventional livestock production, there is a better way. Sustainable livestock production practices include providing greater animal welfare, increasing biodiversity, and extending good working conditions to those who care for the animals, all while maintaining a profitable business. A new study clarifies this further, showing how sustainable livestock care outperforms that of factory farms.
Here are over a dozen examples of family farmers who run viable sustainable farms raising healthy livestock without the routine use of antibiotics. Mary Kay Buckner’s opinion is representative, “Antibiotics simply do not exist to be used in animals every day – for any reason other than life-threatening illnesses. Period.”
The Preston Farm, Vineyards and Winery are located at the confluence of Dry Creek and its tributary Pena Creek, approximately 10 miles northwest of Healdsburg in the Russian River watershed in California. We enjoy visiting this farm and must confess – we love their wines and are wine club subscribers having six bottles delivered to us quarterly.
In researching sustainable farms, which will be the subject of an upcoming Issue, I am discovering that in terms of business models, successful sustainable family farms are almost as unique as the personalities of the farmers who run them.
There is a lot to learn from Lou Preston and the way he does things at Preston Farm but when you ask him, “How do you make it all work?” his answer is, “Heck, I don’t know, we just do it. And while we are just doing it we always eat well.”
Preston Farm, Vineyards and Winery is a beautiful place to visit, to wine-taste. While their grape harvests and wines are exceptional, they experiment with many crops. Lou wrote last year, “Farmer Rebecca is especially proud of our new berriness, baskets of strawberries, rasp, logan and ollalies…” Regarding grains, “We got this notion that bread is like wine, that both are an expression of terroir – the land, the people, the biome – and that what we sell should be uniquely ours. So we plant grain to feed the mills to build the dough that Lindsay caresses into wild-fermented loaves. … Out there where just a couple of years ago we had grapes, we are now anxiously awaiting the harvest of barley, Emmer, Sonora and BlueBeard wheats.” Regarding livestock, “Sheep aren’t the only livestock here, but they are the most present. Four years ago we began our commitment to natural nurturing of the land with the use of grazing animals and the practice of rotational pasturing. For background you can look up Alan Savory who developed the discipline of Holistic Management by which knowing stockmen and wildland managers use mob grazing to build up the nutrition, tilth, carbon and permeability of their soils. For many on this earth, it is the best defense against desertification and the best resort against global warming.”
Lou encourages and develops local farmers markets. “The most important forum that we inhabit is the farmers market. … Food unites people.” They do brisk business there as well as in supplying the local restaurants listing local products on their menus. “People are amazed that we can bring to town meat, vegetables, fruit, bread, olive oil and wine all from one farm. I hope we can overcome that amazement someday by making it more normal, more common.”
To that end, Lou generously shares his knowledge and expertise with local groups like Sonoma Farmtrails and the American Society of Environmental Historians.
Discover Preston Farm at their website: https://www.prestonvineyards.com Visit them the next time you travel through California wine country. This is one example of a successful sustainable family farm.
BTW, their wine club is highly recommended if you enjoy wine!