THE EARLY YEARS
Dan spent the early years of his life at the end of a dirt lane filled with cattle, pigs and barn cats right outside his door. He was filled with an innate love for animals. At the age of five Dan’s family moved to town, but the seed for farming had already been planted in Dan’s heart.
Life brought many changes for Dan from working as an accountant, to working in downtown Chicago, to starting a geothermal loop installation company, but Dan’s desire to farm remained constant.
In 2007 Dan and I started dating. A couple years into the relationship Dan started to hint about his farm dreams. He bought me a copy of a homesteading book and turned to the page on raising chickens. I was hooked!
WE BECOME LAND BEARERS
In 2010 Dan purchased his first parcel of land in rural Woodford County. Armed with a tiller and a copy of Storey’s Basic Country Skills, Dan and I got to work on our first garden and a chicken brooder.
While a garden and chickens are staples on a farm, Dan had bigger dreams of owning cattle.
Dan had spent many many months researching cattle, but never felt like he knew enough to start a herd. He talked about purchasing calves in the spring of 2011, but “the time was never right.”
THE CATTLE ARE COMING
On a beautiful October afternoon I received a phone call. A friend (and livestock auction regular) had pulled the trigger for Dan and was on his way to the house with three Holstein calves. The barn was not ready, we had no feed and Dan’s confidence was still lacking, but we had no choice. That single event changed the shape of our farm’s future. We instantly fell in love with the black and white trio and knew we would be cattle farmers.
WEDDING BELLS ARE RINGING
In November of 2011 Dan sent me out to feed the calves (before we started strictly feeding them grass). I opened the feed bucket to reveal a beautiful diamond ring. Of course I said yes and we were married in May of 2012.
THE GRASS IS ACTUALLY GREENER
In the midst of wedding planning, an excellent opportunity presented itself. My aunt and uncle offered the use of their land so we could expand our herd. The three Holstein steers were about to have company. Dan got to work making an impressive high tinsel wire fence around the 25 acres and purchased 17 more calves.
The following year Dan’s “go big or go home” attitude almost got the best of him. He doubled the herd size to 40 and picked up another 10 acres to graze from a friend who’s property connects with the current pasture.
BUNDLE OF JOY
A few weeks after our wedding day we learned our first farmhand was on the way. Oliver Daniel was born in February 2013. Like his momma and daddy, Oliver has a love for the animals. When he was an infant, he spent the better part of his day petting the dog, looking for the cat or waving at the calves out the window. Now that he is older, he enjoys helping with all of the chores.
RED DEVON CATTLE
Once we made the decision to move from stocker cattle to producing grass-fed beef, Dan went into research mode. He was determined to find a genetically pure breed of cattle that could thrive on grass without other inputs, such as grain. In addition, he was looking for a breed with great maternal abilities, cattle that are docile, and would produce the tastiest grass-fed beef. We fell in love with the Red Devon breed.
We got busy adding Red Devon cows, heifers and a bull to our herd. Spring of 2014 we had our first calving season on the farm. What an exciting time it was. Spring of 2015 we tripled the number of calves compared to 2014.
Watching a momma give birth and nurse her baby is one of the most miraculous things we’ve ever witnessed and we are so happy to be sharing these experiences with Oliver.
In addition to the grass-fed cattle, we raise pastured chickens, turkeys, and have a flock of laying hens. Ironically I used to be terrified of birds, but the poultry are my responsibility. To learn more about how we raise our birds, read our Pastured Poultry page.
ABOUT OUR FARM
Crowe About Farm is located in rural Congerville, Illinois. The 6 acre parcel includes an organic garden and orchard. We reside there along with the chickens, turkeys, Atlas (our Bernese Mountain Dog), and barn kitties. This is also the winter pasture for some of the cattle.
The pasture is located in rural Roanoke, Illinois, about fifteen miles away. The cattle spend the spring, summer and fall on this luscious beyond organic forage with a creek spanning the property.
OUR FARMING PHILOSOPHIES
While researching cattle Dan discovered farmers like Joel Salatin, Gerald Fry, Allan Nation, and Gordon Hazard. Their philosophies of raising cattle on grass and in their most natural element resonated with the ideas Dan had about farming for many years.
Dan’s research coupled with my passion for health and nutrition fuels our desire to produce the healthiest and most natural food possible while tenderly caring for our animals.
We believe that animals should eat what nature intended, should live in the open air and should be treated with respect.
MORE ABOUT THE FARMHANDS
Dan works so hard to keep our farm running, in addition to running another full-time geothermal loop installation business. He is an avid reader and gets more done in a day than most people think about getting done in a week.
Since the time he learned to walk, Oliver follows us all over the farm and manages to get himself into all sorts of predicaments. He loves to feed the animals, pluck fresh strawberries from the vine, and help me with all of the farm chores.
In May of 2015 we decided Oliver was old enough for his own puppy. Atlas, a Bernese Mountain Dog, joined our family. The two instantly became best friends. Atlas is the biggest sweetheart who pretty much doubled his weight every month for a good 6 months and finally slowed down around 100 lbs. I am pretty sure he is unaware of that fact, because he still thinks he fits in my lap.
IN THE KITCHEN
We follow a Paleo/Traditional lifestyle. We focus on high quality fats (such as coconut oil, animal fats and olive oil) and pasture-raised meats and eggs in our diet. We grow many of our fruits and veggies or do our best to purchase them locally. (Be sure to check out our resource page where I show you where I find the best deals on real food and other natural items.) We source our raw milk and raw honey from a local farm. I have BIG DREAMS of my own dairy cow, and even tamed one of our mamas and milked her. However, our current pasture set up isn’t the best for a full time milk cow…..soon though!
In addition to farm raised and local foods, we enjoy fermenting, soaking and sprouting the other things we eat.
ON THE FARM
We practiced sustainable farming methods on our farm. We do not use fertilizers, sprays or anything toxic to the environment. When the need arises, we use natural methods like diatomaceous earth or essential oils.
Dan has done a diligent job managing the grazing of our pastures. As for the poultry, we are constantly moving them to fresh ground to allow the land time to heal. By taking great care of our Earth, we know she will return the favor.
AROUND THE HOUSE
Just as we avoid chemicals on the farm, we do so as much as possible around our house. We opt for natural cleaning supplies, essential oils and homemade bath and beauty products.
I prefer the scent and therapeutic benefits of my essential oil diffuser over a toxic candle. You can whip up just about any personal product with a few natural ingredients. We feel it is very important to reduce the toxic load on our bodies by eating healthy, local foods and eliminating toxins from our home and environment.
WE DO THE BEST WE CAN
The above statements all seem so idealistic, but please don’t think I’m perfect. Life gets busy, mama gets tired, or Oliver does something that deserves a trip to the local ice cream shop. I feel if I am making healthy decisions 90% of the time, I’m doing’ all right;)!
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