The Troyer family follows natural, pasture-based practices with their cattle and poultry operations
It is difficult to know just exactly what keeps Norman Troyer busiest on his 200-acre farm in eastern rural Laclede County, but between Angus cattle and several hundred chickens in his Friendly Farm Foods operation, not to mention his Rustic Ozark Log Cabin business, it is obvious Norman doesn’t spend any time sitting around, wondering what to do next.
“I’m basically a grass farmer,” he said is the best definition of his agricultural pursuits. “We have 40 momma cows, Lowline Angus, that we breed specifically for their shorter legs, big bellies and deep chests, Cornish-cross meat birds and Rhode Island Reds, as well as Barred Rock laying hens. We keep the cows and the chickens to fertilize the grass.”
The majority of the cattle herd is Angus-Hereford cross, that produces black baldies. All are grass raised and grass finished.
“We use no chemical fertilizer and we actually go beyond organic,” Norman said. “We breed the Lowline because the grass conversion to meat is better and makes for very tasty beef with super marbling.
“We also keep our own heifers and direct market our steers through our website at Friendly Farm Foods.”
Because Norman considers himself a grass farmer, forage production is critical.
“We do rotational grazing, making our own movable paddocks so the cows get a fresh salad bar every day. We have 10- to 20-acre paddocks that we can then cut down to smaller ones using moveable hot wire fence. The rotational grazing leaves a canopy of grass that shields the earth from the intense heat of the sun and collects heavy dew, making our pastures very drought tolerant.
“We also have a moveable 20-foot-by 40-foot shelter for shade, adding to that already provided by the trees that are scattered throughout the property that lies along our three-quarter-mile river frontage on the Osage Fork River.”
The chickens are also a major part of the Troyer’s farming operation.
“We have 200 laying hens, the Barred Rocks and the Rhode Island Reds. We sell eggs as well as ready-to-lay chickens. With the help of a neighbor, we process 1,000 Cornish cross meat chickens every six weeks,” Norman said. “Our chickens are fed non-GMO grains, with no hormones or steroids.”
Chickens are pasture-raised, thanks to portable coops.
“We have moveable 20-foot-by-40-foot pull-around chicken coops that we call schooners,” Norman explained. “We give them fresh pasture daily, basically providing rotational grazing for the poultry, too. Giving chickens greens, basically a fresh salad bar, every day allows them to obtain 20 to 30 percent of their diet off the fields. This makes for healthy chicken meat and fat. The Omega fatty acids are balanced and that makes for healthier people.”
Norman and his wife Barbara moved to their current location from Salem, Mo., in 2016 but have been farming since 1994. They follow many of the practices outlined by Joel Salatin and his books, which include many natural or organic procedures and exclude a number of conventional ones they feel produce more disadvantages than benefits.
“There’s quite a list of things that we do differently than are used in many conventional poultry operations, such as the use of antibiotics and vaccines. The same is true in our cattle operation where we use Thorvin kelp,” he said. “This is a New Zealand product that we mix 50/50 with fine salt. This provides the minerals for our cows and has greatly reduced pink eye problems in our herd. On the rare occasion we do have to resort to antibiotics, we cull those animals. We also use products produced from ground seashells as a de-wormer and a biodegradable natural soap against other parasites. What we’ve learned is that there are ways to do what we need done without resorting to chemicals.”
The Troyers have a milk cow and sell milk and cheese and butter Barbara makes. She also makes baked goods, jams and jellies that are sold at the La Tea Da Tea Shop in Lebanon. In addition, they have their own orchard with apple, cherry, peach, plum and apricot trees, which is located next to their large blueberry patch.
“We are all about getting people connected back to their food source,” Norman explained and that even includes providing folks with an opportunity to see exactly how that looks. They have converted their farm’s original 1905 farmhouse into an Air B n B.
“We have it all re-stored with modern comforts like heating and air conditioning, but we don’t have television or WiFi. We’ve had people who have stayed here to tell us is one of the reasons they really like coming here is to just unplug. We try to give all our guests a free ready-to-cook chicken and encourage them to enjoy the river.”
And with all of this, Norman also operates Rustic Ozark Log Cabins, producing beautiful log homes and cabins.
“That keeps me so busy I don’t really need to advertise much about that right now,” he added with a laugh. “We basically do the farming in the mornings and evenings and the log cabin business during the day.”
The Troyers son Freeman and daughter Sue, both in their 20s, still live at home and help in the family’s business pursuits.
“Freeman has been in Colorado recently, delivering a log cabin camper and also taking a little time to fish while he’s there,” Norman said.
“The best part of all of this is enjoying God’s creation and knowing the food we eat is raised as it was intended to be raised,” Norman added. “We have learned a lot by our own experiences and those of others and we work to be as environmentally responsible as possible in our food production practices. Our concern is the health of our soil, air, water and animals, and that encourages healthy people. We are trying to keep as close as possible to the way Our Creator intended it all to be.”