Raising certified organic livestock on Rankin Farm
Jen Rankin, a practicing veterinarian, always knew there would be animals on the farm they purchased in Lawrenceburg, KY. However, the 244 acres looks quite different today than its humble beginnings in 2012 with 4 pet chickens. The farm, jointly-purchased by Jen and Chris Rankin and Carrie and David Rankin, has now become a home to a much wider “flock” of chickens (layers and broilers), pigs, cows, turkeys, donkeys, goats, guineas, geese, and even a few peacocks.
From the beginning they knew they wanted to emphasize animal welfare and use practices to improve soil health and grow lush pastures. It was important to give their animals as much free rein as possible and let them do their natural thing. All with the ultimate goal to raise happy, healthy animals and provide them the best life possible. Read more about their philosophy here.
It was also important to avoid the use of harmful chemicals on their farm. This naturally drew them to adopt certified organic practices and certify their livestock under the USDA National Organic Program.
In a certified organic livestock system farmers must follow over 125 pages of federal regulations, more than we can cover here. Jen shares a few organic practices that keep their livestock healthy and happy:
All animals are fed a certified organic diet (which is by definition always GMO-free). Rankin Farm’s animals forage on their certified organic pasture and receive supplemental feed that is certified organic, GMO-free and they also choose soy-free.
Livestock are not given antibiotics or growth hormones. In contrast, beef cattle in confined animal feeding operations often receive a low level of daily antibiotics as a feed additive to prevent liver abscesses, a side effect of their all grain diet.
They always have access to pasture. Rankin Farm goes beyond this and keeps animals on pasture the majority of their lifespan.
Animals are allowed to express their natural behavior. At Rankin Farm, chickens are not enclosed during the day but allowed to free range and brought in each night to protect them from predators.
The practice of raising animals outside on pasture is at the core of what Rankin farm does and good organic farming. It not only improves the health of the animals, creates more nutrient-dense food, fosters nutrient cycling to build soil health, but in the long-term it also increases the soil’s ability to sequester more carbon.
Organic farming is an obvious win for healthy food, people, and the planet. However, it doesn’t come without its challenges, especially in a pandemic year. We know all livestock farmers have dealt with much longer wait times at processors this year due to a spike in consumer demand for meat. But it's been even harder for certified organic farms, since they are only able to take their animals to facilities that are certified organic as well. There are only two places currently in the state that are registered as certified organic processors.
These challenges in the supply chain bring to light that if you want to strengthen the local food system it takes shifts all along the supply chain. Consumer demand can play a critical role in driving these changes. Supporting farms, like Rankin Farm, that are blazing the trail for a more organic, regenerative food system, is the first step to create a rippling effect to expand market access for certified organic farmers. Learn more about Rankin Farm's pastured-raised animals at their OAK Find-A-Farm directory profile here.