Sometimes we come to our careers unexpectedly. Michael and Christy Underwood can attest to this fact because they stumbled into their sustainable farming careers by simply reading an emotionally moving article.
Once Michael and Christy saw a story about Joel Salatin, a farmer who practices sustainable agriculture and environmentally-friendly farming, they knew farming was the career path they wanted to follow his lead. So, the Underwoods decided to take up an internship in Asheville, North Carolina, with a farmer who knew Michael’s sister. But to take the internship, the couple had to sell their house in Wilmington. While the move was a big decision, they both felt confident they were making the right choice.
For a few years, the Underwoods honed their farming skills in Asheville, but once they learned everything they could, the farmers moved to Cleveland County, in Lawndale, in 2005. It was there the couple began Underwood Family Farms. The location was desirable because of its proximity to Asheville and Charlotte farmers' markets. (The farm currently sells meat, eggs, and vegetables.)
The Underwoods manage Underwood Family Farms incredibly well. “The Underwoods take care of the land and the animals by using the sustainable agricultural practices they learned at the farm in the mountains,” reports the Shelby Star. “Antibiotics and hormones are never used on the animals, and they don’t use chemical pesticides or herbicides on the gardens, fields or pastures.”
Some of the sustainable farming practices the couple uses at Underwood include:
- The couple fences animals to keep them out of the farm’s creeks. This helps minimize erosion and water contamination.
- The farmers use rotational grazing for its herds and flocks. This maintains pasture quality and herd health.
- The farm's garden grows under a high tunnel. It’s similar to a greenhouse and extends the farmers’ growing season.
- The couple cares well for their animals. The farm’s pork is pasture-raised, its beef and lamb are grass fed, its veal is grass and milk fed, and its dairy cows and hens are fed organic feed. The couple also produces certified organic eggs.
In addition, the farm also has an organic cow dairy. To ease its path to opening its certified organic dairy, the farmers built it on their own. While maintaining the dairy is time consuming (the cows have to be milked twice a day, every day, reports the Star), the Underwoods still love their job and are happy they made the career change.
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Dairy farm image via Shutterstock