We hear stories of extreme weather events and deforestation on the news everyday but it really hits home when you can see it first hand. I am a nature lover and outdoorsman with a bachelors degree in biology and a doctorate of pharmacy. Growing up in the lowcountry I spent much of my free time outdoors in pursuit of fishing, boating, hiking, and hunting. In my adventures, I began to notice changes in the environment such as heavier flooding events, higher tides, reduced fish populations, and forests being converted to subdivisions. I was very concerned about our human impact on our natural world and wondered if in 20 years there would be any natural wilderness or wild animals left for my son to experience.
Another trend I began to notice in my professional career was the alarming increase in patients with high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. Everyday, I would see people being prescribed more and more medications, many of which were unnecessary or compounded the problems in which they were being used to treat. After talking with these people, I would often find that many of their health problems were due to poor lifestyle choices and a bad diet. The good news was I knew that there were solutions.
I recommended making small lifestyle changes such as walking more and reducing their consumption of soft drinks and processed foods. They began to change their diet and eat healthier unprocessed meat and fresh fruits and vegetables. I knew that this would make a difference but was amazed to see how much of a difference it made. Many of my patients were able to lower their blood pressure, decrease their cholesterol, and lower their blood sugar to levels of a normal healthy person. As a result, they actually got to a point where they were able to reverse the disease progression and did not have to take the medications anymore! It was very inspiring to say the least.
I started to brainstorm how I could help more people improve their health and take care of our natural environment at the same time. I started Vital Mission Farm with a purpose to grow all natural healthy food in a responsible manner. The health and nutritional value of the food we grow is just as important as the manner in which it was produced. As an animal lover, I could not stand the thought of thousands of chickens, debeaked and crammed in a tiny room covered in manure and dander. I was concerned about their health and well-being not to mention the thought of eating something like that. I knew there had to be a better way.
I started Vital Mission Farm with a handful of chickens that I raised outside on grass. I moved them every few days to let them forage for bugs and vegetation to supplement their diet. When I finally harvested them and my wife baked the first bird, we knew that we had a home run. The taste was out of this world. The flesh also had a better feel and texture to it like you would expect a healthy animal to have. Studies have shown that pastured poultry are higher in Vitamins A and D and have more healthy unsaturated fats and Omega 3s compared to conventionally raised poultry. In addition, the birds scratch and fertilize the ground with their manure which improves soil life and fertility. The increase in nutrients and regrowth of grass and roots traps carbon, increases water holding capacity, and reduces the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. Many studies have demonstrated that proper rotational grazing of livestock on all of the world’s pastureland could reduce CO2 levels to pre-industrial levels in just a couple of years.
I have followed nature as a model to design the farm as an ecosystem. We are utilizing a silvopasture design which has pasture grasses for the animals to graze and widely spaced fruit and nut trees to create additional food for us and habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators. The complex balance of plants, livestock, and animals allows for increased productivity on the same area of land without using fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides. This interconnected relationship works like nature intended, and each part of the farm supports the other parts of the system to make a low-impact, nutrient recycling, diverse, life building community.