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Country Meadows Farm

Pasture-based approach goes easy on animals, farmers
Country Meadows Farm’s shift in production practices eases workload, enhances lifestyle

When Bob and Debbie Eash decided to transition their Country Meadows Farm to a pasture-based livestock operation in 1997, they couldn’t have known how fortuitous the decision would prove to be.

“We were a confinement dairy,” Debbie said, recalling challenges. “It was just the two of us, working 16-hour days. It was hard, just incredible. We’d milk, feed and haul manure all day.”

Grazing provided the lifestyle change they needed on their sixth-generation Hudson, Indiana, farm. It allowed the Eashes to raise four now-grown children — Bryan, Kevin, Lauren and Katie — while building an ever-diversifying farming operation. From the mix of livestock they run to the forages they raise and the ways they market their products, diversity is the twine that ties it all together.

Although diversity and simplicity might seem contradictory, the move to simpler production practices proved especially serendipitous when Bob was diagnosed with cancer in 2020. Seven back fractures plus ongoing treatment limited his physical ability.

“My doctors told me not to lift more than 10 pounds, and that’s probably the way it will be long term,” Bob said. “But I can do tractor work and focus on marketing our products. By this fall, with ongoing treatment, they expect my cancer to be in remission.”

Country Meadows Farm includes about 500 acres of deeded and leased ground. They raise 50 to 70 acres of corn for silage each year. The rest of their land is a mix of mostly cool-season grasses and clover. In addition to dairy cows, they raise beef cattle, chickens, hogs and sheep. They market their products — including grass-finished beef, pasture-raised chicken, pork and eggs, 100% grass-fed lamb and raw honey — through farmer’s markets, food co-ops, online and direct to consumers right off the farm.

“We have one gentleman who comes to the farm nearly every week for two dozen eggs and a pound of bacon,” Debbie said. “A portion of each week’s milk production goes to Tulip Tree Creamery in Indianapolis where it’s used in their award-winning artisan cheeses.”

Changes ahoof in the pasture

Tulip Tree Creamery travels several hundred miles weekly to pick up Country Meadows Farm’s milk because its highly desirable makeup suits their cheeses. The Eashes expect a recent change to regenerative farming practices will further enhance those characteristics. They began implementing regenerative practices after attending the 2019 Soil Health Academy in Roanoke, Indiana.

“Our grazing program is less prescriptive now,” Bob said. “We measure grass height weekly and move cattle to fresh pasture when the grasses tell us it’s time, rather than according to a set schedule.”

“We’re improving our soils, and that’s helping increase plant diversity in our pastures,” Debbie said. “That improved soil health translates to the desirable components in the milk we produce.”

Ultimately, the goal is to begin on-farm processing, perhaps for milk, cheese, ice cream or a combination of the three. Adding a new enterprise could open the door for their oldest son, Bryan, to return to the farm. The Eashes’ oldest daughter, Lauren, already helps out as bookkeeper for their Best Forage seed distribution business.

For now, Bob and Debbie, who met as 4-H competitors at the county fair, say they’re downsizing a bit, yet always looking for additional opportunities to diversify and adapt to the growing demand for the products they raise.

“It used to be, we could hardly sell any eggs,” Debbie said. “Now we can’t keep up with demand. It’s the same story for chicken gizzards. We’re also learning how much our customers enjoy getting out into the countryside and visiting the farm, and we sure enjoy hosting them.”

Learn more about Country Meadows Farm by visiting its website or the Country Meadows Farm Facebook page.

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