Seven Springs Speaker Spotlight: Jeannette Beranger, Heritage Farm Animal Expert

Reader Contribution by Erica Binns
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Get to know Jeannette Beranger of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.

What are you going to speak about at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR?

Throughout agricultural history each generation has taken its turn as steward of the genetic trust of farm animal breeds, yet our generation is in danger of bankrupting this trust. Each day some breeds move closer to extinction and in-turn reduces the genetic diversity within the species. A few highly specialized breeds selected for maximum output dominate modern agriculture, leaving many traditional breeds to disappear as their popularity declines.

Historic breeds often have a high level of adaptation that can be integrated into agricultural systems where the industrial breeds can no longer thrive. These systems are a perfect habitat for the utilization of traditional breeds whose products have now found a growing number of consumers, creating a profitable niche market opportunity for small farms. In the two sessions Jeannette will be teaching learn how to choose appropriate breeds for your farm and how to profitably incorporate them into your sustainable agricultural system.

The first session will have a swine focus that introduces attendees to heritage pigs that in recent years have become the “darlings” of master chefs across the country and are a boon to small farms and homesteaders. In the second session learn about the exciting possibilities of egg production with heritage chickens as well as alternative species of heritage fowl including ducks, geese, and turkeys.

What are you most looking forward to sharing with FAIR attendees?

I most look forward to introducing the public to breed options that they may never before have considered and to help potential owners make wise choices for animals that suite their production expectations, farm, and climate.

Tell us about your background with your particular topic.

I joined the ALBC team in August of 2005. I came to the organization with over 20 years experience working with animals in the non-profit sector. Beginning my career as a veterinary technician, I progressed to become a head zookeeper at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island. My responsibilities included managing a wide variety of species, and in particular the animals within the rare breeds farm of the zoo. Through my work for the American Association of Zookeepers, Inc., I developed international outreach programs that included zookeeper training workshops and the first-ever international conference on zookeeping. My experience facilitating research, organizing workshops and conferences, applying technology to improve animal husbandry, combined with my skills in outreach and networking make me a welcome fit to research, plan, develop and implement important breed conservation programs for ALBC. At home I practice what I preach on my own rare breeds farm where my family and I raise and breed heritage chickens and critically endangered marsh tacky horses.

Why should fairgoers attend your presentation?

Anyone remotely considering keeping pigs or poultry should attend so they can learn about all of the options and how to choose the right animals that will meet their expectations, farmland, and climate. It’s about getting Mother Nature to work for them instead of against.

How will you get to the FAIR, and how far do you have to travel?

I will be driving all the way from Pittsboro, NC which will make the trip about 450 miles traveled in 8 hours.

What are you most looking forward to at the FAIR?

Swapping stories with fellow farmers and getting people excited about rare breed conservation.

What advice do you have for attendees?

Sign up early for talks! (A note from MOTHER EARTH NEWS: You don’t need to sign up for any workshops, but it’s always a good idea to look at the schedule before you come!)

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could have only one thing, what would you choose?

A good flock of chickens to provide me with friends, food, and fun.

Thanks, Jeannette. We’ll see you at the FAIR!

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about the Seven Springs, Pa. FAIR September 24-25, and upcoming FAIRs in other locations. Tickets are on sale now.

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.