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A movement toward better farming is powered by you!

Native grasses, new tools, and customers like you make better farmers

There’s trend taking hold in the Southern plains of the U.S. that we should all pay attention to: farmers converting cropland to pasture. This trend is outlined in this informative article in the New York Post.

It is fairly well-known that the Ogallala Aquifer has been drying up for decades as crop farmers pulled out massive quantities of water for irrigation. As groundwater diminishes the economics of farms are finally catching up with the ecological capacity of the once-abundant natural resources in this region.

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Why our cattle graze tall grass – Pasture Posts #29

We would like to take a moment to remember the victims and families affected by the 9/11 attacks.  That day is still a strong and terrifying memory for us and so many others.  God bless the USA.  

Chances are that even as the informed consumer that you are, you may not have thought much about the topic of discussion that we’ll touch on today. Nevertheless, one thing that we like to do with this newsletter is to give a deeper look into pasture based farming which not only helps to educate others, but also gives you confidence in Watson Farms through the realization that we don’t just give you the common talking points about grass-fed beef and other pastured proteins, but that we actually put into practice many important methods that mimic nature and allow our products to exceed your expectations.

So a strategy that we have to evaluate every month or so with our cow herd is the rate at which we move them over the pasture. While we move them pretty much every day, we vary the size of the paddock in order to provide the desired impact on the cattle and the grass. Larger paddocks allow more selectivity for the cattle which produces better gains, but the more of the forage is left standing. Smaller paddocks concentrate the cattle thereby trampling more grass and forcing them to eat the grass lower. Larger paddocks also have the result of moving the herd over the pasture quicker, while smaller ones are great when we need to stretch our forage supply out.

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The Distance from Farm to Fork – Pasture Posts #28

How often does the average consumer think about how far the food in the grocery has traveled to get there?  I would guess the answer to that is seldom.  But informed consumers like yourself I would guess are far different.  Many of you tell us how appreciative you are that farmers like us are direct marketing to you instead of using the conventional channels.  And we try to make it a point to say thanks to you right back because it takes both a willing consumer and a willing farmer to revive local food systems. 

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Can you really trust the labels? – Pasture Posts #27

pasture posts

Here’s the weekly roundup from Watson Farms and your direct connection to your farmer. Enjoy the latest edition of Pasture Posts where we show you what we were up to!

Labels vs. Knowing Your Farmer

With this edition of Pasture Posts I hope to do two things:

  1. Impart to you some knowledge that will allow you to make the best choices possible with the proteins you invest in.  
  2. Remind you of the huge difference that you have made and continue to make for our farm by choosing to invest your food dollar with us.  

First up: Greenwashing.  Any idea what it means?  It’s the practice of companies or farms falsely claiming that their practices or products are more environmentally friendly or “green” than they actually are.

There’s a few loopholes that the federal government has provided that allows greenwashing by not-so-honest meat companies.  One of the most significant loopholes came from the repeal of country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) in December 2015.  This allows red meat to be imported from other countries but still be labeled “Product of the USA”.  Distributors across the globe were quick to begin taking advantage of the growing consumer demand for grass-fed beef by importing large amounts of cheap foreign grass-fed beef and charging consumers like you a premium for it.  

This imported grass fed beef accounts for about 75-80% of total U.S. grass fed beef sales by value according to a report by the Stone Barns Center.  This presents a huge obstacle to Watson Farms and other farms like us.  Consumers cannot distinguish just by looking at the label which products were actually raised on U.S. farms and which ones might have come from Australia, Brazil, or a host of other foreign countries.

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Why we don’t use a USDA plant for our chickens – Pasture Posts #25

pasture posts

Here’s the weekly roundup from Watson Farms and your direct connection to your farmer. Enjoy the latest edition of Pasture Posts where we show you what we were up to!

Why we process chickens on-farm


We are right in the middle of processing a flock of about 900 broiler chickens. With 5 people we can process about 235 birds from 6am to about 1-2pm. It definitely stretches us thin on these processing days, but it’s the only way we see to actually have a chance at making a profit from our pastured broiler enterprise. We also believe that our small abattoir can do a better job than the other two USDA plants that we have used in the past. We’re not being arrogant in saying that, but we’ve actually seen the difference in our birds and birds from these other plants firsthand. We haven’t had any issues with these other plants that rendered our birds inedible or anything like that, but rather the issues were things like a few extra feathers on the birds or too many packages that lost their seal. Whatever the issue is, we generally lose sales as a result.

So in this issue, we thought it would be a good idea to give you a quick overview about why we currently choose not to use a USDA facility for our chickens.

  1. Distance – for us transportation can be a huge drain on the resources and a source of animal stress for a pasture based farm – especially enterprises that struggle with economies of scale like pastured chickens tend to do.
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Pasture Posts #23

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Top 3 ways that Watson Farms is different than the average farm

I was asked this week about what makes our farm different from most other farms.  This is many times what this whole effort of Pasture Posts deals with, so I thought it would be a good idea to try to list succinctly the top three things that we do differently than other farms in the U.S.

  • Direct Marketing:
    • According to The American Farm Bureau Federation only about 8% of farms market their products locally through direct-to-consumer channels.  
      • One reason for this low percentage is because direct market is definitely more difficult than the traditional models of hauling grain to an elevator or cattle to a sale barn.  In those scenarios the farmer just has to get the farm product to one place instead of in the hands of hundreds of different customers.  Of course he or she is then told what price will be paid for the product regardless of what it actually cost to produce it.  
      • These wholesale marketing channels are easy to access, but force farms to become larger and larger because of smaller and smaller margins.  
      • Many farmers – both direct marketers and conventional – subsidize their farm operations with outside income.  This can be a great tool to get a farm started or to keep it running during lean times, but these subsidies should be viewed as temporary bridges to profitability.  There’s no reason American farms should not be independent, vibrant, and flourishing businesses that are admired throughout the communities where they operate.  Our vision is to accomplish this with the help of the hundreds of families that we view as partners in land healing.  Look for more on this topic in a future edition.  
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Pasture Posts #22

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Farms you can visit

Consumers like you are inundated with advertising and pitches of all sorts from large companies begging you to purchase their meat by offering gimmicks such as ground beef for life, free ribs, free rib eyes, or free shipping.  We all know nothing is actually free, and that the cost for these “free” things are built into the other products being sold. 

These companies also go to great lengths to make sure that their products are third-party certified which we discussed last week.  You will typically see on their customer-facing content a lot of buzz words such as regenerative, non-GMO, heirloom breeds, and so on.  While these claims are definitely true for many of these companies, in our opinion nothing is better than a direct connection with the farm and the consumer.  

This is one reason that Watson Farms has purposefully steered clear of some wholesale opportunities through the years, and made a conscious effort to better serve the consumer directly.  Many of these buzzwords have good practices behind them, but many of the certifications don’t actually cover the important parts.

So if we put all the fancy wording, incredibly large ad budgets, and highly paid P.R. and design teams aside, there is at least one thing that these fast-growing startups (often with venture capital backing) can’t usually contend with:  the ability for the consumer to visit the farm.  

We feel like this direct connection between producer and consumer is the Holy Grail of eating better.  We love connecting with and getting to know you, and we hope that you enjoy connecting and learning about us as well.  Nothing excites us more than a new 5-star review.  To us, that is worth far more than any third party certification.  

This is one reason that we opened our on-farm store where customers new and old can come by and enjoy the scenes of the farm while picking up food that they can have confidence in.  Take a look at this video from Kelly showcasing our new store!

Continue reading Pasture Posts #22
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Pasture Posts #21

Here’s the weekly roundup from Watson Farms and your direct connection to your farmer.  Enjoy the latest edition of Pasture Posts!  (Web versions of this newsletter can be found here on our website!)

Beyond free-range eggs

A quick Google search for “free range eggs” makes it apparent that there are A LOT of farms and companies vying for your egg dollars by promising that their eggs are somehow better for you or for the hens or both.  We are one of those farms, and we would like to take this opportunity to explain in more than a tagline carefully crafted by a highly-paid public relations team what you get with our eggs that you probably cannot get elsewhere.

First and foremost, each of our hen flocks will cover about 30 acres of pasture in the course of a year.  We do this by setting up a loop of electric netting fence each week.  Within this loop are the hens and their pasture house, which is a 20’x50′ portable greenhouse structure that provides shade and shelter.  It also houses everything else the hen needs such as feed, water, and misters for extremely hot weather.  The hens can freely move in and out of all sides of the house in order to forage for grass and bugs.  We call this model truly pasture-raised, and there are other farms across the U.S. that use these methods, but many times the consumer has to be very inquisitive to separate the posers from the authentic. 

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Pasture Posts #20

Here’s the weekly roundup from Watson Farms and your direct connection to your farmer.  Enjoy the latest edition of Pasture Posts!  (Web versions of this newsletter can be found here on our website!)


Monocultures don’t exist in nature

Last week, we discussed how we view and deal with weeds in our pastures.  This week, let’s look at the diversity in our pastures and the species that graze them and compare that to other types of agriculture.

forage diversity mob grazing
Notice the diversity of forages in this pasture.  From Johnson grass and crabgrass to plantains, this field likely has more than 10 different species that flourish after each grazing period.  
Continue reading Pasture Posts #20