By Gary Brock
LONDON — When Matt and Kristin Furbee were looking for a new name for their growing farm business, the answer just came naturally.
Food Raised Right.
“We are feeding the animals and taking care of the animals with respect,” Matt Furbee said.
“We are feeding them the way we would like to eat,” Kristin Furbee added, when asked what the name “Food Raised Right” meant to them.
“There are no hormones, antibiotics and no animal byproducts in our beef. We provide a fully vegetarian diet for our beef,” he said. “We do this as a benefit when we sell as freezer beef. We get a premium when we sell to the stockyards.”
Their website, www.FoodRaisedRight.com also includes blogs about their farm life activities, and explains the philosophy behind their farm business.
The Furbees farm about 365 acres in Madison County, not far from London. They have lived there since 1997, raising a family of two girls and two boys — Luke, 13, Nick, 10, Laura, 8 and Samantha, 3.
Formerly called “Natural Osage Angus Beef,” the Furbees say their farm is, “Where the food is naturally better. We are a small family owned and operated farm in Central Ohio that humanely raises our animals. We feed our animals a vegetarian diet and never use any hormones or antibiotics. We are currently offering beef, chicken, lamb and local raw honey for the 2017 season.
“Honey is always in stock, as long as the bees are still buzzing. Our other products must be ordered, raising them right takes time.”
The Furbees use Ohio Department of Agriculture approved local processors to process their meat for sale.
Before moving to Madison County, they lived in Warren County, where they raised freezer beef on a much smaller scale with 5-6 head.
“We’ve grown to the point now that all but a couple of the herd were born here. They have 55 Angus cows, 33 calves on the ground with more on the way, including two bottle calves.”
They also have two bulls, an Angus and Hereford.
“We have just started getting back into selling beef at farmer’s markets by the pound. We did it several years ago, then life got crazy,” Kristin said.
In addition to the livestock, the Furbees grow a corn and soybean rotation, then wheat or rye.
“We raise corn in year one, then graze the stalks in the fall as well as put in a cover crop of rye. Year two we grow soybeans and follow that with either rye or wheat that fall. In year three, we will frost seed clovers into the wheat or rye.
“Once the wheat/rye is harvested we drill a seven-species mix into the stubble and clover of hairy vetch, sun hemp, pearl millet, sun flower, turnips, radishes and cow peas that we graze our cow/calf pairs in late fall. The following year we go back to corn,” Furbee said.
“About 50 percent of the corn we grow here goes to feed, the other half is sold traditionally. The soybeans are all marketed off the farm,” he said.
A new direction
While not certified organic, the Furbee family will be setting a new direction this year by growing all non-GMO soybeans and corn.
“As of this spring, all our corn and soybeans will be non-GMO. It’s not that I think GMOs are dangerous or anything like that, but my concern is, first I can tell my customers that our livestock is fed non-GMO corn. Second of all, I see little benefit in growing Roundup beans or corn any more. We had so much ragweed and marestail that are resistant. It’s not worth the fees,” Furbee said.
He said they will be marketing their beans through Bluegrass Farms in Fayette County, which is a major non-GMO soybean processor in Ohio.
“I will tell you next year if it is worth it,” Furbee said.
As a farm business, Matt and Kristin said they knew that if they wanted to keep the farm going, “We had to diversify beyond just beef,” she said.
“With the price of land, the chances of us expanding and keeping them (their children) on the farm was slim to none. We were looking at different avenues we could do on the farm. One son is very into gardening, and we sell at farmer’s market, our other son is into sheep — most of our sheep are his. We were trying to come up with other avenues we could get into on the farm so they can stay here,” he said.
He said the name change from Osage Angus to “Food Raised Right” was because Osage Angus really didn’t reflect all they are doing on the farm.
Matt said they are not implying by their name “that other farmers are raising food wrong, we are just raising it the way we would like to see our food raised. Others raise it as a commodity, we raise it as a food.” “We just do things different than traditional farmers,” she added.
What do they see for the future? Matt said time will tell. Kristin works at forklift sales, and they would love to get to the point where the farm would support them both full time. “And our kids too. Our boys are both very independent, hardworking kids. All four kids involved in the farm. They love it.”
Sons Luke, 13, and Nick, 10, have been in 4-H for several years.
Nick has been growing a garden for three years. Walking in his garden, he points out the mounds where he has already planted potatoes. He doesn’t just sell his produce at the farmer’s market, he helps those in need, as well.
Over the past several years, he has donated vegetables to the H.E.L.P House in London. “Last year I gave them beans, tomatoes and some corn. They were really happy to get the food,” Nick said. he had heard about the “Grow A Row” efforts to help community food pantries and decided to do his part.
Touring the farm
On a late April golf cart tour of their farm, Kristin and Matt were proud to show off their fields and additions to the farm. At one stop was a new egg layer wagon.
“The chickens have been out here about a week. We’ve named it the U.S.S. Omelette,” she laughed.
The chicken coop on wheels, made from an old silage wagon, is home to more than 70 layers.
“We are kind of experimenting with it at this point to see how well it works. We have buckets in there for them to lay in,” Matt said.
“We should get about 30 dozen eggs a week when they start up, just in time for the farmer’s market. Our three-year-old just loves to come out here and play. She loves to catch them,” she said. “The extra eggs are just to compliment everything else.”
And there is a lot of “everything else.”
In addition to the seasonal vegetables, they have been doing honey for about 10 years, selling it for the last several years.
On the tour, the Furbees point to the large hives. “We had eight to nine gallons last year, and that was from just two of the hives,” Matt said. They sell the honey at the Grove City Farmer’s Market along with their freezer beef and other produce, as well as directly off the farm.
He said they are licensed by the county health department to sell the frozen beef.
“The chicken will be fresh. We are looking to have the birds processed in the morning and people can pick up that same evening on our farm,” he said.
Near their house in one of the pastures there are three smaller coops.
Matt said they are called “chicken tractors.”
He said a chicken tractor is a way of raising chickens outside, in open air and on pasture. It allows the birds to do what birds naturally do — eat grass and scavenge for bugs. As a bonus, they’ll drop their droppings on the ground where it will fertilize the soil and make the grass grow stronger. That, in turn, will make more bugs and worms want to live there.
“We have about 92, 60, and 35 chicks in the three chicken tractors,” he said. “I have seen satellite images of these used on farms, and you can see where they have been fertilized.” He said the chicks are in the tractors for about 5-6 weeks, from about age three weeks to nine weeks old.
These birds will be moved daily (the whole pen moves, hence the name “tractor”) so they can browse and decide what they nibble on and they do not have to stand in their own droppings. They will also have a natural free choice feed available to them with protein, vitamins and minerals, Matt said.
Doing it for the kids
In their fields, Matt and Kristin both point out the grazing pastures and efficient use of cover crops. They are happy about the cycle of grazing, manure, cover crops and rotation that works in harmony to enrich their soil.
They are a busy family. In addition to farming, Matt has been a township trustee for the last 10 years in Union Twp. and is on the EMS board. Kristin works at a forklift dealership in Franklin County.
Why do the Furbees farm?
“We do it for the kids here. Like what she is able to do right there,” he said, pointing to youngest daughter Samantha, 3, playing in their field, holding a baby kitten. “Nick’s garden is larger than a lot of people’s entire yard. Luke has a herd of 21 sheep that he has raised and hopefully doing this will help put him through college. The kids get the benefit.”
He added that when he posts photos of things on the farm on Instagram, “I use the hashtag #foodraisedright, and when I take pictures of the kids doing things out here, I use the hashtag #kidsraisedright.”
They both said church plays a major roll in their lives. They are active members of St. Patrick’s Church in London, and two of the kids are in the Catholic school there.
Readers can see more about the Furbee family at their web site www.foodraisedright.com
“I would add that I saw a quote from Mother Teresa recently. She said: ‘Not everyone can do great things, but everyone can do small things with great love.’ That is what we do in farming and raising things. We put our heart and soul and sweat and tears into it. That makes the world a better place for us, and people in the rest of the world … we would like to hope,” said Kristin.
Gary Brock can be reached at 937-556-5759 or on Twitter at GBrock4.