This week I visited River of Dreams farm to see their pasture raised beef and lambs. I met Dennis at the On Broadway Farmers’ Market in Green Bay earlier this summer. His obvious enthusiasm and passion for the farm intrigued me. I wanted to see what it was all about.
As soon as I arrived at the 90-acre farm, about 20 miles south of Green Bay, it was easy to see that Dennis loves his farm and all the animals on it! “Let’s go take a walk, see the cattle”!
While we walked through the grass pastures, Dennis explained that he and his wife were both raised on dairy farms. Farming was nothing new for them. In 2002 their bought a conventional dairy farm; but in 2006 they decided to make a change. Dennis had learned about grass-fed beef the previous year. He liked what he heard about the health benefits of pasture-raised beef and decided to give it a try.
Dennis told me that River of Dreams practices Management Intensive Grazing to feed their lambs and beef. Also known as Rotational Grazing. With this system, the animals browse only in a small portion of the pasture. This allows the other grassy portions time to recover between pasturing. Stronger, healthier grasses means better food sources for the beef and lambs. And happy animals means more nutritious meat 🙂
By using portable fences, Dennis moves his animals to a new pasture twice a day. “My days are spent tearing down and building fences” he said with a smile.
We watched the beef graze for a while. They ate their way from one end of the pasture to the other and then back again. Happily munching along. While we talked, I looked around for signs of grain feed. Nothing. They are truly 100% grass fed! Their hides were clean and shiny. Their backs broad. It was easy to see – healthy, happy animals 🙂
Then we walked to the other end of the pastures to see the lambs and chickens. Dennis and Judy raise Katahdin lambs. I learned that they are a Hair Sheep breed that does not produce wool. Didn’t even know that was possible! I thought all lambs had wool. Katahdins are a hardy breed, excellently suited for pasture-raised systems.
More happy animals, nibbling their way across the pasture!
The chickens are also free-range, kept in a large penned in area to prevent them from wandering off. Inside their pasture is the Egg Mobile – a portable “coop” for the hens to lay their eggs and sleep in. The chickens were the only ones I saw eating grain. Which is crucial for their digestive systems. They are fed organic chicken feed only.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two more animals at River of Dreams – Pandora and Atlas, Great Pyrenees dogs 🙂 These two sweethearts help keep the predators at bay. Atlas is Dennis’ right-hand-man/dog and walks along with Dennis all day long.
Studies have shown that grass-fed meat has more heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids when compared to conventionally raised animals. They are also lower in fat, have more antioxidant vitamins like vitamin E. Lastly they have more conjugated linoleic acid, a type of fat that’s thought to reduce heart disease and cancer risks. With a family history of heart disease and having high cholesterol myself, eating heart healthy is very important to me.
River of Dreams is not a Certified Organic farm. Although there are no pesticides or chemicals used on the pastures and the chickens get organic feed, the farm is not organic. Dennis says they are Near-Organic, as close to organic you can get without filling out the paperwork to be certified. All are welcome to visit the farm at any time, as I had done, to witness how the animals are raised.