Welcome to the Farm!
At Beckon Hill Farms, all our animals are raised on pasture year-round and given hay as needed in the winter months. We implement regenerative agriculture practices with a focus on soil health to keep our animals healthy without any hormones or antibiotics. We focus on heritage breeds in the pastures and heirloom seeds in the gardens. In the spring, we run a wood-fired maple syrup operation in the woodlands adjacent to our pasture.
We invite you to learn alongside us as we implement regenerative agricultural principles in all our farming practices.
And if you're already a customer, THANK YOU for supporting local, sustainable farming and food production.
The picture above shows the property as it was when we purchased it in winter of 2019. (Yes, that's the magnificent Lake Michigan just 4 miles west!)
The amazing previous owners, who lived here for 25 years, built the house, barn, coop, and sugar shack. They raised sheep, cows, and chickens here until just a few years before selling to us.
Since moving to Beckon Hill in April of 2020, we have reseeded the pasture, planted a new hayfield, built new fencing designed to protect both pigs and highland cows, replaced paddock fencing, predator-proofed the chicken coop and added an enclosed outdoor run, built a 40'x60' shop, added two new water hydrants, added enclosed hay storage to ensure the highest nutrient levels for our animals' winter feed, built a mobile poultry coop and multiple pig shelters, and bought breeding pairs of our chosen livestock breeds. In the spring of 2022, we welcomed our first animals born on the farm.
After researching agricultural models and livestock breeds capable of producing the nutrient-dense food we wanted, we established Beckon Hill Farms with a commitment to regenerative farming practices. These practices enable us to contribute positively to soil fertility, clean water systems, and biodiversity while sequestering carbon to reverse, rather than accelerate, climate change. Yes, our method of harvesting, drying, and splitting wood for our maple syrup operation requires a lot more work than using gas to reduce the sap like most processors do; but this forest management practice enables greater biodiversity, ultimately allowing the forest to store more carbon while reducing our farm's dependence on fossil fuels. And yes, raising our animals outdoors on pasture is more labor intensive and challenging than the standard industrial method of raising them in confinement on factory farms; but it is healthier for our animals, our local ecosystem, and our environment. We are determined that our farm will enhance, rather than diminish, the beautiful part of the world we call home here in Northern Michigan.
Regenerative Agriculture (called "carbon farming" in some countries) describes farming and grazing practices that focus on improving and revitalizing soil health by restoring the soil’s carbon content and supporting the soil’s essential microbiology. Among other benefits, these practices reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. Healthy soil equals a healthy human microbiome and a healthy planet.
Image credit: Lower Blackwood Catchment
When we were deciding how we wanted to steward the land we had purchased, we knew we wanted to implement regenerative agriculture practices because we wanted our farm to improve the resources it used, rather than destroy or deplete them. The key to regenerative agriculture is that it actually regenerates and revitalizes the land to create healthy soil, capable of producing high quality, nutrient-dense food. It is dynamic and holistic, incorporating permaculture and organic farming practices, including conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, composting, mobile animal shelters, and pasture cropping in order to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem of the farm. The soil is stimulated by grazing chickens and the hooves of cows and pigs, and improved by manure. Livestock forage for the most nutritious diet possible, and there’s never bare ground, so root systems remain intact.
Recognizing this essential role of carbon in the natural world is central to regenerative farming. We hear plenty of negative talk about the effects of carbon on the climate. But carbon that’s sequestered in the soil isn’t bad; it’s a fortifying part of the eco-system. All of us breathe out CO2, while plants breathe it in. Through photosynthesis while alive and decomposition after they die, plants transfer carbon-rich organic matter to the soil. This is what naturally holds water, nitrogen and phosphates—all essential for the growth of plants and food in a healthy soil microbiome.
Why Idaho Pasture Pigs?
The pigs we raise are registered Idaho Pasture Pigs. The IPP is a unique mix of Kunekune, Berkshire, and Duroc that was bred to have a shorter, turned-up nose that allows them to graze on grass. Meat from grass-fed pigs are higher in omega-3 fatty acids and richer in micronutrients, particularly fat-soluble vitamins E and D, as well as minerals like selenium. Pigs have the handy ability to convert vegetable and plant matter to the fatty acids EPA and DHA which reduce inflammation, reduce cardiovascular disease and promote good health for us when we eat pork. As you would guess, free-ranging pork contains much higher concentrations of these beneficial fatty acids. And we never give antibiotics or growth hormones to our pigs!
We grow special combinations of grasses in our pastures for them, one to rotate them on during the grazing months, and one to bale for their winter hay. Like all pig breeds, the IPPs need lisine which is found in grains, so we provide them with a milled grain blend (less than 10% of their diet), a mineral supplement, and occasional "treats" like our heirloom garden vegetables and apples from the wild apple trees on our land.
IPPs have more hair on their bodies than other breeds, making them very cold-hardy animals who live outdoors year-round in our pastures. They always have access to small portable shelters we custom-built for them.
Why Highland Cattle?
Scottish Highland cattle are an ancient cattle species with Celtic origins that have changed little since their evolution in the 1600s. They lived for centuries in the rugged remote Scottish Highlands, where the extremely harsh conditions created a process of natural selection, where only the fittest and most adaptable animals survived to carry on the breed.
Highlands are a natural fit for an all-forage diet. We raise our cows on pasture with only occasional "treats" of wild apples, heirloom pumpkin, squash, and corn grown on our farm, and "sweet feed" for an extra calorie boost on cold days. We grow special combinations of grasses in our pastures for them, one to rotate them on during the grazing months, and one to bale for their winter hay. Grass-fed beef products have been shown to be higher in beta carotene (Vitamin A), conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and Omega-3 fatty acids, which are important in reducing cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and other life threatening diseases.
Our Highland cattle live outdoors year-round in perfect harmony with nature. Due to having a double coat, the cattle are able to endure extremely low temperatures. Their furry coats, not the typical layer of fat, insulate them against winter cold and they shed their topcoat during the summer months. This quality results in a leaner and healthier beef while maintaining good marbling and excellent flavor.