Growing Practices

Our methods draw on a rich and productive agricultural past, with a focus on soil health and ecology. For fertility, we rely primarily on the manure from our own animals in the form of a carbon and nitrogen-rich bedding pack, as well as cover crops. To control weeds, we have traditionally depended on shallow cultivation and hand hoeing. Many of our tilled fields are currently being transformed into no-till, permanent raised beds, made possible by deep composting. In addition to the amazing benefit of suppressing most weeds, deep composting also increases the soil’s organic matter, biological activity, drainage, and water holding capacity. The compost is also an invaluable tool for preventing diseases and pests, as is crop rotation and the use of floating row cover.

If a problem arises after preventative measures have been taken, certified organic, OMRI-approved pest control methods are employed, but only as a last resort, and with the protection of pollinators and other beneficial insects in mind. This can mean spraying a target bacterium to kill cabbage worms, or using diatomaceous earth to discourage flea beetles. We’ve also incorporated some newer techniques that help ensure our odds of success in a world of variables, including drip tape when times are dry, and limited use of plastic mulch in certain crops, such as strawberries. The plastic acts as not only a weed barrier, but it also prevents fungal diseases, which are very common in organic strawberries.  In our “tool box” of crop production methods, you won’t find harmful or toxic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or GMO’s because we never use them!

 We have grown produce using organic methods for many years, so in 2015, we decided to become USDA Organic certified. After two years of adhering to the heavy record-keeping requirement and passing each of our inspections without any issues, we made the decision to transition to Certified Naturally Grown. Our produce operation became Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) in May 2017.  As of September 13th, 2017, we will no longer be USDA Organic. We’ve found CNG to be a better fit for small, diverse farms like ours that direct-market what is produced. The standards of CNG are based on the National Organic Program, and are just as robust. The CNG program minimizes paperwork for farmers, so we can spend more time out in the field doing what we love: farming!

100% GRASS-FED BEEF DSC00085Our cattle are rotationally grazed and grass-finished. Grains, hormones, non-therapeutic antibiotics, animal by-products, and steroids are never used or fed. During the winter months, our cows are fed farm-raised hay, and contribute to a bedding pack that is composted and used for the fertility of our fields. After working with numerous butchers over the years, we’ve finally found one who knows how to cut and age grass-finished beef, which requires a different technique than grain-fed beef. This makes for great-tasting beef, which still has all the health benefits of grass-fed. In addition to being leaner, grass-fed has also been shown to have much higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than non-pastured beef. Both of these fatty acids are potent defenders against cancer.

LAYING HENS The hens lead a great life. CSA hmpage slide 2They aren’t just “free range,” which can simply mean life in cage-free, windowless henhouses; rather, they are pastured! They have access to rotated fresh pasture daily. This forage component is what makes the omega-3 fatty acid levels higher, the vitamin content elevated, the hens happier, and the grass greener! They also receive non-genetically modified feed, that is freshly-ground on the farm, so we know what’s in it: no antibiotics, by-products, hormones, or steroids.

turkey memeTURKEYS  Like all Eaton Farm poultry, our turkeys are raised on rotated pasture with a movable shelter to protect from nocturnal predators. Electric netting defines the pasture perimeters and allows wildlife and turkeys to co-exist with minimal problems. The turkeys also dine on non-GMO, pharmaceutical-free feed ground here on the farm. From whole birds for Thanksgiving to ground turkey all year, you can rely on the Eaton Farm for the best gobbler!

MEAT CHICKENS market schedule 3 Broiler chicks arrive at the farm just hatched and are nurtured in a brooder until they are feathered out. They are then moved out to pasture where they are free to consume plenty of rotated grass and legumes, as well as fresh, farm-milled non-GMO feed, which is of course made without antibiotics or pharmaceutical junk. Electric netting is used, and the birds spend their nights in a saw-dust bedded poultry paradise—free from the advances of predators and chilling rains. They are humanely butchered at a family-operated processor (no chicken soaking in fecal contamination here) and frozen for market.

10538407_10152435033921931_6836748247538546584_nSILVOPASTURED PORK  In 2014, we expanded our hog paddocks to include mature forested areas, taking our pork a step beyond basic pasturing to silvopasturing (from the Latin word “silva”, which means “forest”). There are plenty of oaks and other hardwoods in the rotation now, so the hogs have access to many more acorns and other mast, as well as our farm-ground, non-GMO, non-pharmaceutical feed. Our hogs never receive hormones, non-therapeutic antibiotics, animal by-products, or steroids. After being trained to electric fence in the barn, young hogs are moved out to the forest. While it’s true that acorn-finished hogs make for the most flavorful pork chop ever, the benefits of silvopasturing go beyond the exquisite pork that results. When managed properly, the rooting action of the hogs aerates the leaf litter, accelerates nutrient-cycling, and improves timber growth. The controlled disturbance also helps to keep the forest clear of invasives and undesirable species, and allows us to introduce forages through broadcasting to land that is otherwise inaccessible. In addition to our year-round pork staples, we’re excited to now be able to offer sausage links and naturally-smoked bacon, hams, and chops at certain times of the year. We take great care to raise wholesome, chemical-free pastured hogs, and it doesn’t stop when they leave our farm for the butcher: all of our seasoned pork items are free from MSG, and we offer all-natural curing options, in addition to a conventional cure. For information about ordering our hogs by the 1/2 or whole, visit our Freezer Hog Order Form.