Our Farm and Our Practices
Before we purchased our farm, our land was in the CRP program for at least 14 years with a pasture planting of prairie grasses. No chemicals were applied during this time, and we continue to not apply chemicals to our land. Our animals are naturally and humanely raised on our 40 acres,with 23 acres of pasture and 17 wooded acres. We use rotational grazing on our pastures to continue to improve our land. We are also converting our woods for livestock as well. Our animals are not given or fed antibiotics or hormones, and no animal by-products are used in our custom rations.
We (Ethan and Rebecca) met in 1998 while in college and were married in 2001. We have always enjoyed spending time together outside and enjoying creation. Although neither of us grew up on the farm, both of us have always lived in Iowa with many visits and stays at our families’ Iowa farms.
We are the parents of Caleb (11), Hannah (10), Isaac (7), Jonathan (4), and Josiah (1). We enjoy working together on the farm with our children (as Ethan also balances a full time pastoral job in town). We are excited to see our children have the opportunity to learn about where their food comes from and develop a strong work ethic while working together as a family.
Shortly after we purchased our land, we learned from the locals that we were on “The crooked road to Melcher.” And that is just what it is! We are right in the middle of the twisting, turning gravel road that leads from the city of Knoxville to Melcher. Any way you come to our farm, you will have 15 bending minutes off of pavement, enjoying the rolling country hills of Central Marion County. In addition to our crooked road, we also have a crooked ravine running diagonally through the woods of our property, making the name Crooked Gap Farm an appropriate fit.
The three most important things to us are our faith, our family, and our friends. These things directly impact the way we farm. We strive to raise our animals in a way that reflects how they were created and to manage our land in a way that brings glory to the Lord. We also desire to work together as a family while doing this, cultivating strong family ties and values in our children. And finally, we value friendships and building community. Our hope is that as customers come out to our farm, many new friendships will be formed.
In 2006, shortly after we had our second child and while living in town, we decided it would be wise to look into life insurance. Through the blood work needed to apply, we found that Ethan’s cholesterol was through the roof due largely to the genetically high cholesterol that runs in his family. Becca soon received a long phone call from the insurance agent, not to sell insurance, but to encourage Ethan to not go on medication. Because we were only in our twenties, he was afraid that going on medication this early would destroy Ethan’s liver.
We then began the search to find natural ways to lower cholesterol. We soon stumbled upon information that grassfed meat was the answer. We learned that unlike grain fed meats which are detrimental to cholesterol levels, grassfed meat actually lowers cholesterol.
During this same point in our lives, we were being drawn to the country and also to farming, a crazy notion since although we had farmers in our family tree, neither of us had grown up on a farm. We were still living in town, however, so we did what we could and kept 6 laying hens in our backyard.
It didn’t take long to realize 6 chickens would not satisfy our farming desire. Since Ethan’s dad owned some ground in the country, we decided that we would purchase a pair of Dexter cattle to pasture on his land, over an hour away. Well, if you are going to fence in 2, you might as well fence in 5 . . . and then 7 . . . Before we knew it, at the end of 2007 we had the start of a small herd and no land of our own to put them on.
Knowing we could only afford a modest farm house on a couple acres or instead purchase more acres with no house, we decided to follow the wise advice given to us that you can always add a house to your land, but it is a lot harder to add land to your house. In 2008 we stumbled upon 40 acres that had not been touched for over a decade and immediately fell in love with it. We pulled out our nest egg that we had been saving up during our 7 years of marriage, purchased the land, ran the necessary utilities, had a post frame building put up for us, and with the help of friends and family, we finished the building off to be our home.