Frequently Asked Questions
about Reverence Farms
Q: Is your beef grass-fed or grass-finished?
A: Our cows and their offspring are never fed grain ever, and almost all of them are many generations away from grain, so our beef is both 100% grass-fed and grass-finished. We don’t believe grain-free should be energy-deficient, however, both for our animals’ quality of lives and your nutrition, so in addition to intensely managed pastures, we also feed our adult dairy cattle a molasses supplement along with organic apple cider vinegar, both of which are sources of energy when the grass isn’t sufficient. Most of our meat comes from animals who were finished without molasses.
Q: Are you “beyond organic”?
A: Yes, and no, and we want to be square with you about all of the particulars. Our chickens, turkeys and pigs eat a certified organic, whole-grain ration from Reedy Fork Organic Farm nearby. (We were Reedy Fork’s first feed customers in 2008.) Most “pastured” chickens and turkeys are fed a ration of GMO and chemical-laden feed, and we strongly believe that “This is food!” means that the chickens, pigs and turkeys eat a diet free of GMOs and non-GMO pesticides. (What came before GMOs isn’t worthy of going back to; “GMO-free” is another way of saying “older-style chemicals.”).
We have chosen not to certify the poultry and porcine operations because we believe you all are the best (and most economical) certifiers, and our chickens and pigs get some (non organic) real-food scraps from the Saxapahaw General Store. Our dairy cows and sheep are managed organically with the exception of occasional antibiotic use (to save an animals life only) and the molasses we use is not organic. We also fertilize our hay ground with ammonium sulfate (considered the least offensive of the conventional fertilizers until we can afford to start managing that 60-acres totally organically). All of our 200 acres of pastures would qualify to be certified organic. We believe in transparency and not platitudes such as “beyond organic,” which for many folks means a lot of things that we don’t think it should mean. We are one of the most organically committed, direct-marketed, diversified dairy farms you can find in the region. We are organic in our hearts, and pragmatic in our approach. Transparency is our trademark. Ask away.
Q: Can I visit your farm?
A: Absolutely! We encourage folks to visit and bring your children. We require that you leave your dogs at home, and ask that you self-guide your tour using the map at the entrance to the farm. We hope to return to guided hay wagon tours in 2021. More on visiting the farm here.
Q: Can I volunteer on the farm?
Short answer: no. The skill and training required to do farm work is much higher than most folks realize, and the cost of raising animals reverently doesn’t allow us enough margin to also provide the training necessary to allow folks to “help out.” While we are greatly appreciative of the offer, and indeed farms are generally places of ample simple tasks, the complexity of the multi-species operation is such that it doesn’t provide an easy jumping off folks for many people.
Q: Do you have jobs available?
Any jobs we have available are posted on our homepage. We are a small team of highly committed individuals whose life calling is to steward land and work with livestock and support others’ ability to share in the bounty of health that comes from a close relationship to the land. We are a family farm and our farm team is also our family, and we take the responsibility of adding to that team seriously. Trying out what it’s like to be around lifestock and/or a desire to work outside are not qualifications for the work, which while incredibly rewarding, is often also difficult and physically challenging. Rainy days aren’t office days.
Q: How is your meat processed?
A: Our beef, pork, and lamb are all processed in family-owned USDA processing facilities and then vacuum-sealed and immediately flash frozen. We are very intentional where we take our animals, and we deliberately don’t use the two closest plants to us even though they are certified by the gold standard Animal Welfare Approved because they don’t meet our standards. Our pork is processed at Acres Station Meat Farm and our lamb and beef is processed at MicroSummit Processors. Every purchase from us gets us closer to our highest aspiration, which is on-farm harvest in a USDA-inspected process. Animals shouldn’t have to travel to give their lives. We strongly believe that the “one bad day” mantra is the wrong standard. We aspire that our animals have no consciousness ever of a bad day. Our poultry is already harvested on-farm, by the same caring and conscientious hands that raised them, and it is packed in 2 mil plastic bags (without a vacuum seal at this time), under the legal exception for small farms (P.L. 90-492).
Q: Why do you talk so much about “passionately pasturing” your animals?
A: We believe that animals should harvest the vast majority of their own food. The pastures are high-density grazed with one species (or two complementary species, such as sheep and cows), then another species moves through in symbiosis (e.g., birds following herbivores) and then that paddock is allowed to recover for one to three months, depending on the season. Our pigs are given fresh silvopastures every week or more, allowing them to harvest a tremendous amount of their own fresh food. We move a tremendous amount of portable electric fencing every single day in order to allow all of our animals to eat a fresh, nutritious diet. “Pastured” does not mean life outside on a dirt lot or on rank, picked-over, denuded grass. Fresh food every day, many times twice per day, is our practice. We are serious about what it means to say, “This is food!”
Q: How can I feed my family healthier meats while on a budget?
A: Old timers referred to pork chops as eating “high on the hog,” because it’s literally the top of the animal, and the most-expensive cuts of meat are always in the least-used (and most tender) sections along the spine, but the most nutritious cuts are also the least expensive, and include the parts of the muscles that were used to walk. Those cuts need to be slow cooked in a crock pot or pressure cooker to be tender, but there is no faster dinner than the one that’s ready when you return, and they often take the least skill to produce for a superior result. Also, we offer discounts for even small quantities in bulk. Check out some of our bundles here. Our smallest bundles take up very little space in the freezer.
Q: Are your meat products available only seasonally, or able to be purchased all year round?
A: We harvest at the peak of the season so you are getting a nutritionally superior product. We keep the meat in a deep, below-zero freeze in vacuum packages where it will remain “fresh” for many years with no measurable change in quality. Properly defrosted meat is indistinguishable even to the most discerning chefs from fresh. And this way, our meat is available to you year round at its peak quality.
Q: Do you sell live animals?
A: No, except for breeding stock to select farms and homesteads. We do not sell animals live to be butchered elsewhere. While we respect and appreciate the religious traditions for which this is a centuries-old practice, it does not compote with our values to be responsible for every aspect of our animals’ lives.
Q: Do you sell compost?
A: No. We are not well set-up to do this well. One of the most difficult things any business must decide, and particularly farm businesses, is what not to do. We have imperfectly finished compost that works well on our pastures but not in a garden, and honestly it costs us more to produce this divine material than the market will bear in terms of price. And we don’t have the machines, tools or labor to sell it without taking away from our other tasks.
Q: Do you have milk cows for sale?
Sometimes we have cows for sale that don’t work in our system (usually because they need to eat some grain to meet their high energy needs) or didn’t get bred in our spring/fall calving seasonal windows. We advertise breeding stock for sale in our Farmers & Producers Newsletter (sign up in the site footer below). At the moment we don’t sell many ideal cows or heifers as we are saving them to grow our own herd. Every winter our friends up at Holterholm Farm in Maryland sell their out-of-season cows, and they have an excellent grass-fed A2A2 program and produce fine animals. (In fact, we’ve purchased 30 females and a handful of bulls from them over the years.) We found the best way to get top-notch animals is to home-grow them, so if you already have a milk cow, please consider our bulls to breed her to. Our bulls have been breed for many generations to be able to stamp grass-efficiency, butterfat and soundness into their offspring, and they are all A2A2.
What are some of the benefits of buying your products? Am I really going to notice a difference?
Our customers answer this best. Here is what Paula Q has to say: “Oh my word!!!!! This is THE BEST brisket I’ve ever had/smoked!!! Super moist. Super tender. Super delish! Your love and reverence of your entire farm really comes through in all the products we’ve been eating. Since I’ve made the switch to your red meats, poultry, pork, eggs, fats, and bones, my fingers are no longer stiff in the mornings. This is incredible for me!! I absolutely notice the difference in your products vs store-bought, from raw in package to the smell to the color to how it cooks to how it tastes and feels in my mouth. Thank you much!”
How do all of the animals work together and how many animals do you have?
As of spring 2021, here is our approximate inventory:
Cows & springing heifers: 40
Bulls & Steers: 25
Livestock Guardian Dogs: 10
They all work together in the sense that each species complements the other in how they eat and graze. The cows and sheep graze the most similarly, and both generally only take off the tops of the plants so long as we keep them moving. We like when they only graze the top third of the plant because that is where the most energy is (think of the plant tips reaching for the sun, and so that’s where the photosynthesis is most active in the plant, and thus the most sugars are). Sheep with their tiny mouths are able to eat some thorny plants that cows generally don’t like, such as multiflora rose, which is highly nutritious, just protected by thorns. The sheep mouths are tiny enough to get between the thorns and pluck off individual leaves. So they complement each other in that they eat slightly differently even though they are both ruminants. The pigs turn up the soil with their noses and their diet is 1’ above and 1’ below the soil surface, so they eat lots of other things besides grasses, and forage is not enough to sustain them. They are mono-gastric like us and need protein and energy more than they can get from just green leaves. So they eat grubs and roots and we also feed them an organic ration that has things like sunflowers, field peas, lentils corn, roasted soybeans and oats and barley. The chickens have similar nutritional needs to the pigs, and they forage mostly for bugs in the cow pies (so that the fly larvae don’t hatch as often and turn into flies to pest the cows) and they are valuable to the cows because they take the cow manure and spread it out in the process for looking for bugs and in the process speed up the breakdown of nutrients back into the earth.
Have you ever felt so much empathy for an animal that you decided to not kill it?
Yes. Many times. Sometimes it may be a rooster or a hen that literally escaped from the processing crates and started running around. Sometimes we just let them live, and join the next flock, even though it’s not ideal for lots of reasons. And sometimes those animals end up costing us a lot of time. But heart matters too. We’ve had more than a handful of pet cows, sheep, and goats over the years. They all have a really special place in our hearts: Doat the Goat, Spot the Sheep, Lolly the Cow, and so many more. But in each one of those cases our compassion for the animal also meant at some point that we put the pet animal down. Sometimes they die of natural causes — or almost, like our very special steer friend Little Squirt, who actually told us when it was time for us to euthanize him by laying at our feet when he didn’t want to walk anymore. The reality is that living out one’s natural life often comes with really significant challenges at the end. We support our animals through that and minimize their suffering as best as we can. But sometimes the most empathetic thing we can do is to end their lives, even if they are pets by that point.
Read the stories from the Farm
Impassioned stories about our farm, and about our mission, straight from the people who work the land and live in the community.
Buy fresh from the farm to your table
We’re serious about the food we produce. It’s real food for real people. Everything we do is done with love and care, and that shows through to what we produce.