Jay and Dawn Remotti reclaimed 10 acres and turned it in to a diversified farm
ROLLA, MO. – The old folks say you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear but they never met Jay and Dawn Remotti.
On a piece of Phelps County, Mo., property near Rolls that was once a well-tended garden belonging to a university professor and his wife, Jay and Dawn have reclaimed what kudzu vines, weeds and small trees took over after decades of neglect. Today at their Good Land Natural Farm, they are raising chickens, pigs, rabbits, have beehives and plans for much more.
“The list is longer than there are hours in the day,” Jay admitted. Even so, the once-upon-a-time computer programmer from Connecticut is happy in what he is doing. “We raise Cornish cross chickens and receive 100 day-old chicks every two weeks. We keep them in an indoor brooder for the first few weeks until they have feathers, then they go outside. We process 100 chickens a month.
“We also raise Duroc and Middle White pigs, an old English breed, and together, they make a decent cross. We sell frozen chickens and pork cuts at five farmers markets each week, two in Rolla, two in Steelville and a new one in St. Robert. We also do custom processing for whole or half hogs.”
Jay is a man of multiple talents. In addition, to livestock, he builds furniture such as tables of all sorts, end tables, coffee tables, indoor and out. He also builds rabbit cages and dog kennels, many of which, with a finished wooden top, can double as an indoor end table. Dawn works a couple of days a week at a local general store and helps in the care of all their animals. She pointed out the first apple, peach and pear trees now planted in what is to be their orchard in coming seasons and mentioned a garden also in their future plans.
“We try to do everything as naturally as possible,” she said. “And of course, that’s reflected in our name. We are all non-GMO and we use organic feed for the chickens and rabbits. We also compost the chicken manure.”
Jay pointed to three beehives and said he more hives on other properties. While he sells some honey at this point, he would like to get into the queen bee business, which is more lucrative.
“On a place this small, it is all about having multiple streams of income,” Jay said. “We also have a small sawmill. A lot of what we do is seasonal, so we have to be able to move from one thing to another.
“We are still clearing some of the land which was all woods when we started, after sitting for nearly 20 years. We are also building silvopastures now, which are pastures with trees deliberately spaced to provide enough canopy for shade for the animals, such as the chickens, in the hottest weather but still allow enough light through to grow low grasses. We are setting up our chicken yards with the electric fence right now, at the edge of the woods to provide a cooler place for them in the mid to late summer’s heat.”
Starting a farm has offered many lessons to the Remottis.
“We’ve learned a lot,” Jay said with a laugh. “Like the best defense against kudzu is pigs as they root out the vines’ roots, killing them off. We do truly intensive grazing, like chickens in a hot fence area for 36 to 45 hours and pigs for five days at a time, to really mow that area down. And then they – and we – are on the move again.”