Twisted Cedar Farm is owned by Hunter and Brooke Day in West Limestone. They sell beef, pork, chicken, goat and are even working on getting turkeys ready for Thanksgiving. What makes their operation different is that even though Hunter grew up as a generational farmer’s kid, he said he’s really first generation in the way they do things.
“We started with laying hens and goats and really just sold eggs out of the house and sold goats for breeding stock, stuff like that,” Day said. “It really just evolved from there.”
Day didn’t start out thinking he was going to farm like the men before him. His father raised commercial goats, and they had cattle, too. He started out doing other work but eventually decided to open the farm in 2018 – with one main difference – to keep it small.
“You’ve got to keep it going – a younger generation has got to get in – myself as one of those, and there’s programs out there for young beginning farmers. If you’ve never farmed a day in your life, start out small. Grow a couple tomatoes in a pot. Buy you a couple land hens and start figuring it out. If you’ve got the passion to do it, you’ll find a way to do it,” he said.
He said he remembered when he was young coming to the Athens Farmers Market with his grandfather one summer. His grandfather planted sweet corn and they spent all their time harvesting it by hand in the hot summer sun only to come out to the market and have a few people buy it. He reminisced on how back then any farmer would just back their truck up to the market and start selling.
“You look back in time 50 years ago small farmers is what drove America. and now, you look and there’s no more small farmers,” he said.
While some generations aren’t staying in the farming business, local markets seem to still be making a comeback in some areas. He said it’s different from the days where he used to help out his grandfather. Now, there’s a whole application process, and he said he was glad to be able to get in the Athens market as new updates are being made and more people come out.
“It’s putting local agriculture back into the local economy and that’s what we’re striving to do,” he said. “Local customers are always going to come first.”
One of the big things he said they don’t use for feed at the farm is corn. All of their meats are raised on non-GMO feed free of soy and corn.
“It’s mainly to cut down on all the so called ‘bad stuff’ that the big companies put in it,” he said.
Staying small was important to the family when they started the farm because they wanted to put something good back into the local community.
“Our breakfast sausage, for example, when you cook it, there’s just barely enough grease to make gravy,” he said. “That allows people that can’t eat sausage, because of health issues, that allows them to be able to eat our sausage.”
The health benefits of eating their locally raised meat is something he said he’s experienced himself.
“You’re going to feel better; I’ll promise you that,” Day said about eating their meat instead of store bought brands. “It’s not a cure all by any means, but you can sit down and eat some bacon and you’re not going to feel your blood pressure run out of the top of your head.”
He explained, using the bacon for another example, that Twisted Cedar’s is nitrate-free, which is different from the bacon in grocery stores simply because of the list of things customers can see on the labels of meats from big producers.
They went a smaller route even though he knows people who farm commercially just because it took less capital to get started. They do things differently day to day too. He explained they recycle material and build their infrastructure cheaper where they can.
“We practice regenerative agriculture, moving the animals, letting the animals take care of the land,” he said. “It’s building the nutrients and stuff up with the animals.”
He explained pigs will till the soil, chickens and cattle will eat the grass down and fertilize it and you can rotate them all around in the pastures so that they can cut down on things like fuel and large equipment costs.
“If we don’t have pork or chicken or beef or anything in stock we don’t sell, we don’t make money. That’s the biggest challenge for us, we didn’t expect the demand to be here for what we had when we started and it’s here so we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to get more livestock,” he said.
Keeping up with the demand was good challenge to have Day said but being a smaller operation and feeding the animals the way they do leads to longer growth times which means more money goes in on the front end which is what ultimately determines the price. He said people don’t always understand that’s why it’s more expensive than the store bought commercial meat.
“We’re trying to broaden what we do and not get on a huge scale. We want to offer enough quantity to be able to satisfy our customers but also have that diverse inventory to be able to sell,” he said.
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