May 13, 2011

Harmony JACK Farms looks to build on cooperative farming model

by Nate Rafn

Andy Westlund established Harmony JACK Farms with his family in 2001. They raise cattle, pigs, chickens, and goats (including Kiko goats) primarily on organic pasture land, located just south of Stayton, Oregon. Their meat products are marketed through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, delivering as far north as Vancouver, Washington, and as far south as Eugene, Oregon.

Westlund is trying to create a broad farming operation that includes several partners and products. Their goal is to expand the Harmony JACK Farms product line by sharing equipment and resources, and working with growers who's products and bi-products are mutually beneficial to the larger operation.

I recently visited Harmony JACK Farms to talk with Andy Westlund.

Living Culture: Tell me about your background in agriculture.

Westlund: I took some Ag classes as electives, whenever I could. After school, I spent time on Laughing Stock farm in Eugene and loved it, and worked with a friend on a college project that he got funded as a real life experiment in cattle genetics. It was too small to support both of us, so I moved on to a dumb commercial career. I always thought the farming was great work and I aspired to get back to it someday. After retiring from distribution, last 5 years at, I went into logistic consulting and my wife and I bought a farm and started small, raising some livestock organically. We have been doing both those things, plus added an organic composting business call GUS (Ground Up Soil) as well. So we run Harmony Jack Farms, and help run GUS, and now also have added raising and harvesting timber, raising working horses, and hope to add organic vegetable business to the Harmony Jack Farms livestock products this summer. We're still looking for a grain and bean partner, a honey partner, and a full fledged energy partner to help round out our farms activities.

Living Culture: How has Harmony JACK Farm progressed through the years?

Westlund: From about 2001, raising two goats, two cows and a dog... to about 100 cattle, 25 goats, 30 pigs, 6 horses, and about 200 laying hens, and we plan on adding some fryers this summer.

Living Culture: Why does the pasture-based, rotational grazing system work so well on your farm?

Westlund: The rotational grazing works so well because we have finally got the right cattle for the right situation. We have gone through several less-successful breeds and trials, and feel like we have the right mix, with some decent selection for our wet weather here in Oregon, and getting to minimal levels of natural productivity from the previous years grazing efforts starting to positively effect grass growth. There are more natural species in more fertile soils being grazed for more correct periods of time--- all learned by some tough trials. We are blessed with some diverse soils, elevations, and terrain, that allows us to have the animals on pasture year round. This is previously uncommon to Oregon.

Living Culture: You share equipment and work cooperatively with other nearby growers and artisans. Why?

Westlund: We work closely with our own neighbors--- folks we select from those who express interest in becoming partners with us. It takes a high degree of unselfishness to like this environment. Many have failed, or were just not right for the situation. We are trying to build a model system that can be replicated as just one option to consider as a viable methodology or combination of enterprises that can be part of building a stronger, local, clean, sustainable, healthy food and essential products system to strengthen a local economy. It's good for everyone, we think.

Living Culture: What are your long-term goals for the farm?

Westlund: We are trying to find the right group to help us create a successful example and working system here. It takes a lot of effort and sacrifice, because overall, we are bucking a lot of common wisdom that most of us think is not a good system at all, yet feeds most of our society currently. We think a better system can be built.

Related Links

CSA & Farmers' Market Directory

Antibiotic Epidemic in the U.S.

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