The Gills strive to provide high-quality beef, milk and chickens at their Little Cypress Creek Heritage Farms
Mention the Faulkner County, Ark., town of Vilonia, and the first thing most folks think of is tornados. Rightly so.
Vilonia experienced two deadly tornados only three years apart, 2011 and 2014. The first tornado made a mess across what is now Little Cypress Creek Heritage Farms, owned by Mike and Tricia Gill. Trees were blown down, debris and stumps littered the landscape. Mike and Tricia’s 14-acre farm is part of the original 80 acres purchased by Mike’s grandfather.
The Gills operate their farm with four basic goals: (1) Provide food in a natural way, (2) minimize the environmental impact while raising animals on natural grass pastures, (3) establish a symbiotic relationship with our animals through the natural lifestyle for them in return for their sustenance (4) share the farm experience with family, friends, and the community.
The farm operation had a meager beginning with six layers purchased for family use in 2013. Realizing they had several acres not being utilized, the Gills made the decision to expand their operation and began getting the farm ready for cattle. It took the better part of two years to build fences, barn and habitat, but it all came to fruition with the purchase of two bred heifers and a steer in 2015.
The first calves for Little Cypress Creek Heritage Farms arrived in January 2016, followed by the first on-farm-bred and born calf in September 2016.
The goal of quality beef was the main reason for choosing the Miniture Hereford line of cattle. All true Miniature Herefords in the United States are registered with the American Hereford Association. The breed’s smaller size makes them easier to handle and is more conducive to reduced space requirements. The smaller size also equates to a perfect size steak.
Mini Hereford calves are born from 30 to 50 pounds, which is perfect for kids to be around and make for easier handling for show. Smaller cattle mean less mess around the farm. All part of the lessening the environmental impact. It takes about half of the nutritional needs of larger breeds to maintain mini Hereford, and the breed requires no special nutritional input to maintain beef quality. The Gills only use AI to breed their heifers. With the AHA registration, this maintains the quality they demand for their beef. They are also an Arkansas Certified Beef Quality Assurance producer.
They have also added raw milk into their farming operation.
“We bought our first milk cow in January 2017,” Mike said. “So, we have really just gotten started. We now have three cows and a milking facility. Things have really fallen into place for us.”
The sharing part appears to be successful as the demand for grass fed beef, free range poultry and raw milk products keeps Mike and Tricia busy.
“We have really worked hard on maintaining the quality of our products,” Tricia said. “Grass-fed beef, grass fed-dairy cows and pastured chickens, it is all part of our plan. The raw milk is getting more popular as consumers become educated about it. We have raw milk customers as far away as Mississippi.”
The strict guidelines for quality cover every aspect of the food chain on the farm.
“Some feed is required to maintain high milk output from the Jersey cows.” Mike said. “But we only feed non-GMO feed, no medications or hormones. Same thing with the chickens. All natural, non-GMO feed.”
With the growing demand for raw milk products, grass-fed beef, and free-range chickens, the Gills have found it necessary to consider expansion. They are currently finalizing plans to purchase acreage that adjoins their farm which would almost double the operation’s size.
“We are really excited about the possibility of purchasing more land,” Tricia said. “The market is there for our products, but expansion gives us more opportunities to share our farm with family and friends. That is what’s important.”