Self-sufficiency is the ultimate byword at Pasture Nectar Farm in Lawrence County.
On their 40 acres near Mt. Vernon, Mo., Eric and Kathy Vimont and their children, Jake and Hannah, are creating the type of farm – with a few modern twists – that sustained generations of families before the advent of specialization.
“We advocate going back to a more balanced foundation,” Eric said.
That foundation includes raising their own vegetables, chickens, pigs, sheep and a dual-purpose breed of cattle that provides both meat and milk. What they produce gives the Vimonts not only enough to supply their own needs, but to generate income through the sale of fresh products straight from the farm and at farmers markets.
“Our raw milk is our premier product,” Eric said.
Their milking herd averages about 10 cows, which is just about the number they want to maintain, Eric explained.
“There’s too much work in the parlor to milk the way we do and maintain a bigger herd,” Eric said. “It takes us the same time to milk 10 cows as it does a commercial parlor to milk 100.”
While their system is automated, pumping the milk from the cow directly to a holding tank, the Vimonts have only two milking stalls, and because the milk is not pasteurized, they spend much more time cleaning and preparing the cows for milking and keeping equipment and the parlor clean.
Each udder is thoroughly washed by hand, inspected and sterilized before a milking machine is attached.
“We will never milk a cow that isn’t operating room clean,” Eric declared. The iodine solution we use is the same as used to sterilize skin before surgery.”
In a room separate from the milking parlor, milk is piped directly from the holding tank into waiting half-gallon, sparkling clean, sterilized glass jars. Lids are screwed on promptly and the jars placed immediately into a cooling tank. Later, they will be moved to a refrigeration unit.
Raw milk, he added, has a longer shelf life and a purer taste, and recent information on its benefits has been “overwhelming.”
While they started their herd with purebred milking shorthorns, the Vimonts’ interest in self-sufficiency has led them to begin developing a dual-purpose herd.
“We’re trying to change at least part of our genetics to Fleckvieh,” Eric said, explaining that the European breed was developed to allow production of both milk and beef where agricultural land is limited.
Eric has been buying hay for winter feeding, but is excited about a new method of producing fresh forage year-around. A shed is being converted to produce hydroponically grown “sprout biscuits.”
Metal racks hold rows of plastic trays filled with barley, wheat or rye seed. The seeds will be kept wet and allowed to sprout. When the grass has grown to a height of six to 12 inches, it will be harvested by cutting the matted sod into “biscuits,” and the clumps fed to the cows, who will benefit from having green forage even when the ground is covered with snow.
The new method of growing forage isn’t the only innovation at the Vimonts’ place. A 16×20 foot greenhouse attached to their home houses an aquaponics system that can produce not only garden vegetables and herbs all year, but also meat for the table.
A gravel-filled table the length of the long wall contains a variety of vegetables and herbs.
Beneath the table are four large water tanks that can be stocked with up to 200 fish.
The greenhouse is a self-contained ecosystem. Water is pumped from the tanks to the vegetable table, where waste products from the growing fish provide natural nutrients for the plants. In the process, the plants clean the water, which then is oxygenated and returned to the fish.
With all the elements they have chosen for their farm, the Vimonts are well on their way to the self-sufficiency they desire.
“We have the security some people don’t have,” Eric said.
Not only do they know they can supply their own food needs, they also know what has been applied or fed to their plants and animals that might be passed along to human consumers.
“We will always be an old-fashioned operation,” Eric said. “We’re definitely always going to be small. That’s our whole format – we’re after quality, not quantity.”