This summer, I was fortunate enough to go with a group of folks from Slow Food DC to visit the P. A. Bowen Farmstead in Brandywine, Maryland in southern Prince George’s County. Not only a wonderful local farm, it is owned by Sally Fallon Morell, author of the Nourishing Traditions cookbook, and founder of Weston A. Price Foundation, which focuses on promoting the eating of nutrient dense foods.
Fallon and her husband Geoffrey, bought the Southern Maryland farm several years ago and has since created a pasture-based mixed animal soy free farm operation. The farm has pastured dairy cows, egg and meat chickens and pigs. Each part of the farm is organized with sustainability and humane animal treatment principles in mind.
The new dairy barn and most other components of the farm were built for sustainability and humane husbandry. A mix of ingenuity, traditional farming techniques, and new ideas to close the sustainability loop have driven this farm’s design.
Bio Intensive farming means that animals and products raised are used in harmony with each other, as a system. The techniques used by the farm certainly are a solid example of how it can be done.
The dairy cows are kept using intensive managed grazing techniques, and are moved twice daily to new sections of pasture. Pigs are used to clear new areas of forest and revitalize soil with their intensive grazing. Chickens are pastured and moved into previous cow pasture four days after the cows, just at the point that flies are hatching in cow manure, providing nutritious larvae meal for the chickens and controlling flies. The water runoff from the dairy barn is captured for watering the pasture.
And to promote happy cow physical and mental health, there is a big cow brush (for lack of a better name) that looks like a giant rotating brush from a car wash, which cows can activate with a nudge to give their hide a good scratching. Word is, it’s very popular among the cows, who line up in pecking order just to use it, and the resident bull, who comes trotting in just for a brushing.
The centerpiece of the P.A. Bowen Farmstead is its artisan cheese, produced from their small herd of grass-fed Jersey cows. The cheese is produced on the farm, and its signature cheeses are Prince George’s Blue and Chesapeake Cheddar.
Even the by-product of making cheese, whey, which is normally discarded as waste in commercial cheese making, is used to feed the pigs and poultry as a great source of protein.
The economic foundation of the farm at this time is selling cheese, eggs and their grass-fed pork, chicken and beef meats through their on site farm store, direct sales, and local farmers markets. However, they are looking to expand their farm products as the work progresses on new components of the farm. In honor of the local food movement, they do not ship their products, choosing to sell only from the store.
The owners hope that the P. A. Bowen Farmstead can serve as a model for other farms, inspiring farmers—both established and new– to produce an abundance of naturally raised foods and bring prosperity to Southern Maryland and to farming communities throughout the U.S. They are happy to share our vision and production methods with farmers, regulators and educators. They offer farm tours so visitors can learn about their integrated farming techniques. You can visit the P.A. Bowen Farmstead on Saturdays for its 11am tour. Its farm store is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm.
For more great tours and events led by Slow Food DC including cooking events and farm dinners, see their website, www.slowfooddc.org.