From time to time, we'll be sharing stories about farmers, individuals, and businesses who are walking the "sustainability" walk by doing more to provide local fresh seasonal food while helping reduce pollution and restore the Chesapeake Bay's health. We will also put links to these stories on our Facebook page.
|Photo by Rita CalvertRon Holter's son, Adam, has helped on the family's holistic high density dairy farm since he was a little boy.
5619A Holter Road
Jefferson, MD 21755-8508
Eggs—Available anytime in the farm office, open on the honor system.
Beef—There is one pickup date each spring and fall; orders are taken by phone with a $50.00 deposit, beef is sold by the whole or half carcass. Pick up is at Hemp's Meats in Jefferson, Maryland.
Milk—Sold to the Organic Valley Coop "Northeast Pastures" under the Organic Valley label.
Ron Holter, a fifth-generation farmer at Holterholm Farm in Jefferson, Maryland, likes to say he's farming as God intended—without pesticides on the grass fields or hormones or antibiotics in the cows. Visitors to his organic dairy farm west of Frederick also hear about how the Earth, animals, consumers—and his pocketbook—are also benefiting. Ron is also a mentor farmer and advisor to other farmers in Maryland's Grazer Network.
The Farming Operation: Ron and his family operate a 207-acre, seasonal, pasture-based dairy farm in Frederick County, Maryland. His 125 milking cows are a mixture of Holsteins and Jerseys. In 1995, Ron converted his dairy from a confinement operation, where cows are confined to and fed in enclosed areas, to management intensive grazing, where the animals are moved from one fresh pasture to another. The farm consists of 65 paddocks, each averaging three acres in size. The cows are moved from paddock to paddock daily, or every few days, depending on the quality and quantity of forage growth—the grasses and other plant material eaten by grazing livestock. Ron manages his cows to calve in late February and early March, which results in milk production from March to December. The Holters also produce pasture-raised beef and veal.
Words to Live By: Ron believes good management is the biggest factor in farm success. "Cattle are ruminants and therefore should be eating forage. That's one of the reasons I adopted management intensive grazing."
Sources of Pride: "No soil leaves our farm," states Ron. "We keep permanent cover on all of our land to prevent topsoil loss. One of my biggest thrills is to see our land heal as earthworms and other soil life return to pasture soils."
Forward Thinking: High density grazing (sometimes referred to as mob grazing) is a land management practice that continuously improves the soil—crucial for successful agriculture—while providing healthy forage for animals. In high density grazing, pasture grasses grow up to three feet high before large groups of cattle are moved in for grazing.
The result: The cows are happy. Weeds, which are highly nutritious, are consumed. Every square foot of soil is fertilized. Pasture re-growth is of very high quality (usually including a lot of nutritious clover) and contains more of the land's native plant species.
As an experienced grazing farmer, Ron is a mentor in the Maryland Grazers Network, teaching other farmers how to convert their crop fields to high-quality pasture. For more information, contact Michael Heller at [email protected].