“I hope that what we do now is inspiring others to farm. And we need to do that by showing the world what we do and how we do it,” says Adair Crowe of Crowe Family Farms. “The only way to build trust with those outside of agriculture is to let them in.”
Crowe Family Farms in Monroe City, MO is a product of many generations. Niman Ranch farmer Adair Crowe returned to his family’s farm full time in 2006. “I am a sixth generation farmer and my children are potentially the seventh,” says Crowe. He explains, “my dad Keith Crowe and I are the main caretakers of the farm. We also have help from my mom, Jane Crowe, grandfather Roger Crowe, my aunt Kim Donelson and my great uncle Bill Beaver. My children also: Mackenzie, Madeline, and Henry are just starting their time on the farm.”
The Crowe Family has raised hogs on the farm since 1969. While the family raises only hogs commercially, they also grow corn, soybeans, and wheat. They “raise a few chickens for eggs and as a way to get the next generation involved in agriculture,” says Crowe.
“We do everything we can to preserve and build our soils,” Crowe explains. They rotate crops, contour farm, build terraces, and use composted manure from the hogs. “For the last five years we have been strictly using no-till farming and are increasing our use of cover crops,” says Crowe.
Crowe raises hogs this way not only for the farm’s health, but also for future generations. “We do these things not for an immediate reward or satisfaction,” Crowe continues, “but for the possibility that our stewardship of the land will benefit the next generation and generations to come.”
Crowe credits innovative technologies and ingenuity with helping the farm achieve its sustainability goals. “A part of farming sustainably is doing it effectively and new technology helps make that happen,” Crowe explains. “Technology is always changing and improving every aspect of farming. From precision planting and fertilizing, to animal genetics and nutrition, there is no area that increasing our knowledge is not beneficial.”
“Yes we raise hogs the ‘old’ fashioned way, but that doesn’t mean we wish to be inefficient or lag behind,” says Crowe. “Our practices now will affect the food system long after we are gone. This is a responsibility not to be taken lightly.”
Crowe began selling hogs to Niman Ranch in 2003 for “the chance to work with a company that shares our goals and beliefs in raising animals the right way. It’s great to be involved with a company that values you and all your hard work. Our relationship with Niman Ranch is more mutual than a typical buyer-seller relationship. We realize that we are all in this together,” says Crowe.
However, Crowe encounters many changes in the farming community. “There is no doubt that for the last 30 years, farms have been growing and fewer people are farming as their full-time occupation. Our area is no different,” Crowe explains. “Back when my grandfather owned his order buyer business, he purchased hogs from countless farmers in the area. Nearly every farm had livestock in some form. Nowadays, you can count the number of hog farms in our area on one hand.”
While he acknowledges farming is a difficult industry to enter, Crowe notes that consumers can help farmers in many ways. “Although you may have never tilled the earth or raised an animal, we want you to appreciate the food on your plate. Many hands and many hours of work goes into providing the abundant quality food at your fingertips,” says Crowe. “Or better yet, give it a try. You just may find out why it is that we love our jobs so much.”
Farmer Friday is a bi-weekly series featuring livestock farmers selected by Niman Ranch, a network of more than 700 family farmers raising livestock in a traditional, humane, and sustainable way. With more than 40 years as an industry leader, Niman Ranch works with small, independent family farmers and ranchers across the United States to encourage better food system practices. All Niman Ranch pork, beef, lamb, and prepared products are certified under the Certified Humane® program and available nationwide at both food service and retail locations.
Photographs courtesy of Adair Crowe.