Homesteading with Heritage Breeds

Heritage breeds are a great option for those with a small acreage. These old-fashioned heritage breeds are hardy and versatile. In addition to preserving the genetic diversity of these wonderful heritage breeds, one Ohio couple is enjoying the rich bounty of nutritious and flavorful food they produce.


| February/March 2008



products from heritage breeds

Milk from the cows provides a bounty of dairy products.


Photo by Mary Lou Shaw

Rare breeds of farm animals have come into our lives in the same serendipitous manner as our farm itself. We’ve discovered perfect heritage breeds for homesteaders — Dorking chickens, Dutch belted cows and Guinea hogs.

My husband, Tom, had been a building contractor who insisted on recycling materials and using superinsulation. I was a family practitioner who emphasized preventive medicine and universal health care. He was discouraged by people’s indifference to conserving energy and materials. I found it difficult to give good care in a system that was becoming more focused on profit than health. Then we bought a 13-acre farm near Washington Courthouse, Ohio. That was almost 11 years ago.

We continued to work at our “real” jobs for the next decade, but the farm offered us a place to be completely true to our values. We poured energy, money and time into restoring our farm’s seven buildings. We nurtured the large vegetable garden and orchard. It wasn’t long before we realized the joy of sharing our experiences with others — and our own enthusiasm grew.

City children came on farm tours and had their first experience of potatoes coming out of the ground and green beans on bushes. We began beekeeping; bees confirm our belief that nature and chemicals are not compatible. Last year we put up a windmill to grace the pasture and to reassure us that we can have water without electricity.

We bought the field adjacent to our meadow with money from selling an old house Tom rebuilt. We turned those 40 acres, which were mono-cropped with heavy machinery and chemicals, into grassland and wetland. In addition to giving refuge to many animals, these acres now help purify water that overflows into the meadow.

Perhaps it was after we purchased the additional land that we stood back and thought, “This place deserves something special!” At any rate, four years ago we read about the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), and our adventures with endangered breeds of poultry and livestock began. We didn’t realize then how much enjoyment awaited us.





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