Regenerating land, and a community
Ashtabula County is home to beautiful beaches, big skies, covered bridges, and sweeping, glaciated landscapes—a setting which can, in some cases, lure families home to farm. Connie and Randall Moores of Moores Heritage Farm followed that call.
When Randall returned home from active duty service, he and Connie began breathing new life into Randall’s grandparents’ farmstead, which they purchased in 2014.
They raise chickens, turkeys, ducks, goats, cows, pigs, and lamb in a pasture-based, multi-species, rotational grazing system. Raising animals on pasture helps the Moores feed the soil through manure the animals spread themselves, and regenerate former grain fields through the beneficial interaction between the animals and plants. The animals enjoy fresh grass daily, grass that nourishes healthy ruminant guts and enables the chickens, turkeys, and ducks to live as they should: scratching, pecking, and dust-bathing their way through the day. As the saying goes among farmers, these animals are raised so they only have one bad day. Their many grateful customers get to eat meat from animals that were raised in the fresh air on healthy pasture, eating non-GMO feed, and being handled with care and respect.
But the Moores are raising more than just livestock. Their three delightful children are inquisitive problem-solvers and take pride in their life on the farm. The farm offers daily lessons in the value of hard work, the cycle of life, and the challenges and rewards that come with the doing. This includes the hard stuff farmers don’t generally advertise: the long days, machines that break down just when you need them, a pipe that springs a leak, a neighbor’s dog feasting on the chickens overnight, or an animal falling unexpectedly ill. These little farmers are experiencing it all first hand, and Connie and Randall wouldn’t have it any other way.
With the raising of free range kids and pastured animals, you might think the Moores were certified organic, but the farm is not. They’ve considered it, but lack of access to certified organic processing facilities (a common challenge for meat producers in our region) coupled with the high price of organic feed, has led them to focus not on organic certification, but on good sustainable agriculture practices and relationship-based marketing.
Having regenerated the family farm and rekindled a love of farming in the family, they’re now working to revitalize the community beyond their pastures. They’ve purchased a charming old building in the Historic Ashtabula Harbor and have begun renovations. Their goal: a farm-to-table restaurant, featuring healthy, farm-fresh options for dining in or take-out. They hope it will offer an outlet for other area farmers, too, which will be a welcome addition to the growing food and farming community in Ashtabula County, which now includes farmers markets, a local food council, and food hub.
Moores Heritage Farm demonstrates how sustainable agriculture practices such as intensive, multi-species rotational grazing on chemical-free pastures serve to regenerate the land while building businesses to support a family and serve a community.
Want to learn more about sustainable family farms in Ohio? OEFFA is a membership-based grassroots organization, dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological, and healthful food systems. OEFFA’s Begin Farming Program includes workshops, networking, and mentorship to help beginning farmers, like the Moores, succeed and grow their businesses. For more information, visit MooresHeritageFarm.com or oeffa.org.
Julia Barton is a Sustainable Agriculture Educator with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), where she supports producers transitioning to organic. In addition to her OEFFA work, Julia and her husband, Patrick Turner are foster parents to two little farmers, and run Octagon Acres, an organic vegetable farm in Ashtabeautiful County.