As a small family farm, we’re always looking for ways to get to know you (our customers & fans) better. And we want you to know us better too! That’s why we’re starting a series of Farmer Spotlights — to give you the chance to truly “know your farmers.”
Farmer Paul was the first brave volunteer (even though he was really volunTOLD) to answer the questions you asked on facebook, instagram, and through email. You might already know that Farmer Paul is a devoted husband and father to his wife Lynsey and son Noah (and obviously an awesome farmer)! But were you aware that he was also an All-American racewalker and javelin thrower at Concordia University, Irvine — where he attended on a handbell scholarship!? Needless to say, Paul is a pretty awesome guy who’s full of surprises.
Find out more interesting facts about him (as well his take on all sorts of farming questions) below!
Q: Did you rub dirt on your face for this picture? – Yeshua G.
A: It’s actually poop. I was spreading manure compost that day. It was super windy out and I was chucking it out onto the pasture from a wheelbarrow and it kept blowing back into my face. That’s kind of embarrassing, but thanks for asking! Haha, off to a good start…
Q: Would you say your life has changed for the better since Primal Pastures – Camila L.
A: Before Primal Pastures, I was working a desk job. I was in a cubicle with fake lighting for 70 hours a week and was hardly ever able to get away to see family or friends. It was really boring and I didn’t believe in what I was doing. I gave all of that up (along with a really solid paycheck) to farm full time. Now, I’m working outside with my hands. I have much more time to spend with my family even though I’m working the same amount of hours (often times even more). And it’s really a blessing working with animals. I have a smaller paycheck now but feel 100 times more fulfilled than I did before.
Q: Do you lift, bro? In all seriousness, my husband joining CrossFit was what introduced us to the Paleo/Primal lifestyle last year. When did you decide to shift your life/career to farming? And did your parents, friends, and family think you were nuts? – Kimberly H.
A: I got into Paleo from CrossFit too. When I was in the Marine Corps, all of the guys were doing CrossFit and along with that came paleo. They told me to take out breads and gluten for 30 days. After I did it, the arthritis I had in college disappeared. That pretty much sold me on Paleo. As for the career shift, Farmer Tom (my father in-law) had been interested in organic pasture farming for like 30 years. Once I started learning more about pasture farming and how it fit in with the Paleo lifestyle, I was convinced that starting a farm was the right thing to do. The family was incredibly supportive but my friends thought it was a little weird. Most of the Primal Pastures family members are into CrossFit now – and our farming background gives us a new appreciation for farmers carries, etc.
Q: What was your favorite food growing up, and how would you adapt it to the way you eat today? Or would you even want to? – Joyce B.
A: Just so you guys know, that’s my mom who asked this question. LOVE YOU!! As you know, mom, corn dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese were definitely my favorites. I haven’t had either of those since I was a kid and wouldn’t really want them anymore. When you make a habit of staying away from certain foods, you don’t crave them anymore. And knowing how bad they’ll make you feel makes you crave them even less. I don’t think of Paleo as a “diet.” I never feel restricted by only eating real, unprocessed foods. It’s pretty much how every guy wants to eat anyway, I mean come on – amazing steaks and bacon? Although… a grass-fed beef Paleo corn dog would be pretty epic.
Q: Do any of you still work another “day” job? – Nick and Kim P.
A: I was the first farmer to go full time with Primal Pastures. Farmer Jeff was the second, and both of us are also part-time students. Farmer Rob is a full time student in addition to his work with Primal Pastures. Farmer Tom still works full time. The goal is to have everyone in the family come on full time eventually.
Q: What came first, the chicken or the egg? – Philicia P.
A: The chicken definitely came first – an egg can’t hatch without a chicken sitting on it. Why is this disputed?
Q: When are you going to start making more babies? – Philicia P.
A: The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends spacing out children by 3 years. Weston A. Price himself recommends 5 years in between children. But since my wife wasn’t the average traditional age of 13 when we had our first (Noah, 15 months), we’ll probably have them a little faster than that. After all, we’re gonna need a lot more farm hands to help collect eggs and process chickens. We’re passionate about adopting and want to grow our family in that way too.
Primal Pastures Questions
Q: When can I get some of your eggs? – Jeanie O.
A: We love producing eggs, but it takes quite a bit of land. We also lost 70% of our flock to predation last year and it’s taken some time to rebuild it. But even more than selling eggs, we’re really passionate about helping people raise eggs on their own. We’re working on a web series right now to make this possible even for folks who have small yards or apartment balconies. We’re also working on doing a pastured chicken coop that will work for small yards or balconies. If we really want to see dramatic change to our nation’s broken food system, we need 20% of people to plant a garden and raise a couple of laying hens. It would do more than you could imagine and it’s fun!
Q: Do you supplement pasture feed with corn or soy? – Nicole R.
A: We do supplement our chickens’ pasture plucking and bug eating with organic, non-GMO corn, but never soy. Soy in the United States is more genetically modified than any other crop and can cause big problems when digested by humans. The corn in our supplemental feed makes up a small percentage of our chickens’ diet, otherwise consisting of bugs, grass, organic alfalfa, wheat, limestone, diatomaceous earth, grit, and other natural ingredients that chickens feed on in the wild.
Q: I love Primal Pastures’ dedication to properly raised animals. I have a question about your term beyond organic. In what ways does your farm produce beyond organic animals and how is this better than organic? – Melissa L.
A: The problem with the term “organic” is that it’s just a check in the box. Companies have to meet very minimal standards in order to be certified. A chicken given organic feed can be certified organic and still live de-beaked in a 12”x12” cage with 3 others for its entire life. That is totally missing the point if you ask me! We believe in raising animals in their natural environments with plenty of time and space to roam… where each animal can express their unique characteristics (the chickenness of the chicken, the pigness of the pig, the sheepness of the sheep, etc.). We strive to create a natural habitat for these animals over getting a government sign off.
Q: How large would you like to grow your farm and when will you know you’ve reached the ideal size? I.e. will we see you in Whole Foods? – Madeline H.
A: First and foremost, we all want our family to have a good lifestyle and our family is priority. We don’t want to get so big to the point where we aren’t having fun, but not too small to where it’s not putting food on the table for us. We like selling directly to the consumer but also want to have a major food impact. It’s a balancing act and I wish I had the perfect answer, but we’re taking things day by day for now! Certainly not as big as Nutpods will be someday
Q: Now that you won a couple of contests, what are you gonna do with all those Benjamin’s? – Philicia P.
A: We’re super excited and honored to have just won an Agricultural Innovation Prize with University of Wisconsin-Madison through a new company called Pasturebird LLC. This new venture provides a large scale solution to factory farming that puts birds out on grass where they belong. The funds will go towards patenting the idea, prototyping it, and implementing it on a small scale at our farm. The plan is to scale it up after that (which will require a larger investment).
General Farming Questions
Q: What is your favorite and least favorite chore to do on the farm?
Also, is there one animal (that you don’t already have) in which you are hoping to one day raise on the farm? – Emily P.
A: My favorite chore is rotating the animals to a new patch of grass every day. I can literally feel their excitement to have fresh food to grub on – it’s like a big salad bar for them. My least favorite is processing chickens. I’m grateful that we’re able to do it and we’re passionate about doing it as humanely as possible, but it’s a lot of work…and it’s a really long day. I want to add lots of other animals – cattle, pigs and ducks to name a few. The one I’m MOST excited about is probably dairy cows. They are such amazing animals.
Q: How long will it take in your opinion for our country to change how we grow our food and more farmers step up to real farming? And do you even want that? How do we help keep the good guys like you all growing and all the while supplying to our demands …is this a question? Haha. Thanks. – Jenna P.
A: In my opinion, it could take as little as a year for our county’s food system to really change but that would take support on three levels: farmers, consumers, and government.
Farmers: We’re still experiencing a mass exodus of young talent out of agriculture. And when you look at conventional systems, it’s easy to see why. Who would want to work 70 hours making $25k a year working a factory farm? We need to see more examples of financially successful ecological farmers who can motivate more young people to start farms. Right now it’s a poor man’s sport.
Consumers: The trend of consumers demanding higher quality food is amazing, but it needs to be 1,000 times greater than what it is now. In So-Cal, we’re blessed with a lot of educated and informed folks but the demand needs to sweep across the country. People need to understand what good quality really is instead of falling into the traps of meaningless labels like cage free, free range, etc.
Government: It’s going to be difficult for our country to see large gains without the support of public policy. Right now, it’s heavily in support of the pharmaceutical industry and large scale CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) farms. These policies drive up prices and make it artificially cheaper to buy poor quality food.
If these three things could change overnight, there will be widespread food healing for our country within a year. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by things out of our control, but each of us needs to focus on our own choices and what we can do to help.
Q: What are some things you wish you had known when you guys were first starting? What are some good “ducks” to get in a row so to speak? – Adam P.
A: It would have been great if we had known how to farm. There are too many things to even list that we didn’t know before getting into this. It would have been really good for one of us to do a week-long internship with Mark Shepherd, Joel Salatin, Alan Savory, Greg Judy, one of our heroes. That definitely would have catapulted us faster, but we also wanted to make our own mistakes – so we just jumped right into it. We would have rather gotten the ball rolling and messed up than bury ourselves in books and never actually do anything. As long as your mistakes don’t include compromised integrity, don’t ever mess that up.
Q: With the prevalence of GMO-infused food these days, how are you able to ensure there is none up-chain from y’all? – Donna C.
A:We do our best to perform due diligence with our whole supply chain. We have visited the farms where we get most of our products from. The feed supplier that we use for the chicken feed has multiple certifications, not just the National Organic. They are National Organic Program certified, Oregon Tilth certified, and OMRI listed.
Q: Do y’all farm by the intensive grazing method? Using electric fencing Joel Salatin style? I’m curious about worming methods as well. They say if you aren’t rotational/intensive grazing, you have to worm your animals. – Annemarie S.
A: Yes – we practice Joel Salatin’s style of rotational grazing. Some of our biggest influences are him, Allan Savory, Greg Judy, and Mark Shepard. If animals are being rotated, worming isn’t really an issue. We’ve never had to de-worm anything.
Q: How often do you move your sheep? Are you using flexible paddocks or static? Which abattoir do you use? – wandercampasino
A: We move the sheep based on the amount of pasture and stocking density available, but they never stay in the same place for more than 2-3 days. We use Electro Netting for the sheep.
There are a variety of USDA and state inspected abattoirs around So-Cal that we use. Feel free to shoot me an email at Paul@primalpastures.com if you want a full list of our slaughter houses. I’d be happy to provide it, but it’s a lot of information.
Q: You all completed a fairly large kickstarter project to move into the beef industry: where are your pastures in So-Cal? Nuevo? Temecula? How are the dress out weights coming and how did infrastructure roll out go? – wandercampasino
A: Kickstarter was awesome. We’re still looking for a great piece of land to call home. Dress out weights always depend on time of year and are unique to the animal but we’re very happy with them at this point in time. As far as infrastructure, we really don’t have a lot of permanent equipment but I’m happy to answer a more specific follow up question in the comment section below.
Q: Are you offering free choice minerals to your ruminants? Are you using a specific breed of cattle? I heard BarZona may be a good choice for the climate. – wandercampasino
A: We’re interested in free choice minerals but haven’t put them into use yet. We watched Greg Judy’s talk on them and it’s definitely something we’d like to explore in the future. I’m very familiar with the BarZona breed. Right now we’re using Black Angus but BarZona is an excellent hot weather beef meat.
Q: Have you noticed a significant change in feed/time needed after switching from Cornish Crosses? – newvintageembroidery
A: Yes – it’s 2-4 weeks longer on average. But the Heritage birds peck and scratch a lot more so you end up using less supplemental feed. They take longer but it ends up balancing out. The Heritage birds also act a lot more like chickens and taste better.
Q: Is starting a farm more expensive than one realizes? – Laura H.
A: Starting a conventional factory farm is far more expensive than anyone could imagine. You’re looking at close to 1 million dollars just to get a couple of poultry houses set up. Starting a farm the way we did is really cheap and scalable in comparison. Primal Pastures cost less than a combined $5,000 between family members to start!
Q: Seems a bit too normal, but asking anyway: For you, what’s the best/worst part of farming? – Scott H.
A: I love being outside, doing something I’m passionate about, being around family all the time and being around awesome customers. The downsides are the massive time commitment, the huge learning curve, and all of the ups and downs.
Thanks so much for reading and for all of your questions! Have anything else you’re dying to ask Farmer Paul? Leave any additional questions in the comment section below!