PCC Farmland Trust will host a farm tour at Bennington Place Farm in Walla Walla on Saturday June 27. Bennington Place is home to Thundering Hooves pasture-finished meats, a 178-acre farm saved from development by the Trust in 2006 and is part of the 650-acre operation run by Thundering Hooves.
The day will include a tour of the land and animals (cows, chickens, heirloom turkeys, sheep), hosted by Joel Huesby and his fourth-generation family of farmers. They will discuss Thundering Hooves’ philosophy behind raising pasture-finished meats in which livestock are moved across pastures in a high-intensity, short duration grazing schedule – allowing the pastures time to rest, re-grow and recycle nutrients naturally.
Thundering Hooves was a conventional farm until the 1990s when the cost of inputs and labor began to overtake any profits made on the commodity market. The Huesbys saw the soil dying in front of them after years of compaction and degradation by tractors, pesticides and fertilizers – all of which killed microorganisms necessary for healthy soil. Thus began the transition to organic pastures and elimination of the middle man, moving the business into profitability. At this point, Thundering Hooves sells directly from its Walla Walla meat shop, online, to local restaurants and through neighborhood buying clubs.
In 2007 Joel built a USDA-inspected mobile slaughterhouse, or abbatoir. Only the third such unit in the country, the trailer is a self-contained facility for harvesting animals humanely and economically. The operation is similar to “custom exempt'' mobile slaughter trucks that travel from farm to farm slaughtering livestock for personal consumption. This is Huesby's answer to flaws in small-scale USDA meat processing, as it saves him the expense of traveling to an out-of-town processor, and gives him more control over the cuts and packaging of the product. It also allows him to keep the animal byproducts, from which he can profit, and eliminates stress on the animals brought about by long hauls to distant locations.
After the tour, there will be a feast of fresh, local produce, Thundering Hooves meats (as well as a vegetarian option), and local wines from Dowsett Family Winery and Trio Vintners. Featured speakers include Joel Huesby, who will discuss the state of small-scale farming, and Pam Coleman, former Washington state organic inspector and PCC Farmland Trust board member. The evening will close with dancing to live country and bluegrass music.
This farm tour marks the beginning of a year-long celebration of the 10th Anniversary of PCC Farmland Trust. The public is invited to “Follow us to the Farms!” in a version of the Chautauquas of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This was an adult education movement popular in the United States where entertainment and culture were brought to rural communities with speakers, teachers, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day. PCC Farmland Trust’s reverse “Chautauqua” will take city folks out to three very different Trust properties in the coming year to learn about the land and the source of our food. Following the June tour at Bennington Place will be a visit to Ames Creek Farm in Carnation (home of Full Circle Farm, Growing Things Farm and Children’s Garden Farm) in September, and Delta Farm in Sequim (home of Nash’s Organic Produce) in January 2010.
Registration begins May 11 at www.pccfarmlandtrust.org . For questions, call 206-547-9855.