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Farm Of The Future Growing Now in WNY

10:53 PM, Dec 23, 2012   |    comments
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  • Farming fuels the human race, yet so many take it for granted. Today's American farmer grows twice as much food as his parents did, much of it using less resources. Some of that is due to more sustainable farming techniques.

    Sustainable farming is defined as farming using principles of ecology, or the study of relationships between organisms and the environment. Using these techniques benefit all along the food chain. The Gehl family are a new generation of sustainable farmers, on a vanguard of growers trying to raise healthier, more natural food.

    Ben Gehl has learned a lot since becoming a farmer several years ago." The studies have shown that everything from the proteins in the meat to the fibre and all those types of things in the meat are better when the animals are raised in a natural system. When they're raised on the ground, on the grass, kept out of barns for the most part, we do the best we can to keep them in a natural system."

    The Gehls practice a technique called Rotational Grazing. That means their animals are never grazing on the same spot of pasture from day to day, says Ben." We try to move our animals, depending on the animals, the chickens we move every day, the pigs we move once a week, but as soon as the pasture starts to get worn down, we move them on to a new area. It keeps the land prosperous, they're returning their nutrients and the land isn't overburdened , and the animals themselves are eating better food."

    But it can take a village to raise a farm, and it's never been truer in this case. The Gehls are moving from their old farm in Akron to a larger one in Clarence. They're getting a lot more land and a chance to expand their operation, something they couldn't do without the town's help.

    The Clarence Greenprint program was designed to help preserve greenspace in the town, and the Gehls are a perfect fit. Nancy Smith is Exec. Director of WNY Land Conservancy, which acted as a consultant for the Greenprint program.

    "Because this land is protected through the Greenprint, the development rights have been permanently removed from the land. So the cost for them to purchase it was affordable for a young family." David Hartzell is Supervisor of the Town Of Clarence." We looked around, we bid it out a few times, and we had a few offers, but this couple was unique in that they had farming experience, and we knew they could take the farm and bring it back and just do a great job."

    The success of the farm will contribute to a healthier community in more ways than one,says Hartzell." We went down to Moody's earlier in the year and we actually got an upgrade to our bond. One of the things that Moody's loved was the Greenspace program because it increases the value of all land in the town of Clarence. So it was good for rhe Gehls obviously getting the farm, and it was good for the taxpayers because ultimately they'll pay less as a result of having their bond rating go up."

    And on this day the family got help from another part of the community, as volunteers from the Western NY Land Conservancy pitched in to help get the farm ready to move in.
    Ben's wife Lori was grateful for the help." I was kind of dumbfounded to hear that all of these people wanted to take time out from their busy holiday, they're doing the work it would have taken us weeks to do, and we're so thankful for it."

    And if it's true that "what goes around comes around" all of the region should soon reap the fruits of the new farm's labor, says Lori." When we raise our food, we buy from a local hatchery, we buy feed from a local grainery, and most local of all, we keep them on the grass so they're getting as much nature as they can, and putting back into nature what they can."

    Smith is enthusiastic about the farm's future." It has a fabulous family, it has local agriculture, it has wildlife habitat, water quality, air quality, I can't think of a missing piece, it has the scenic views, it has it all."

    You can find out more about the Gehl's and their new farm by visiting their website : www.chickenwortheating.com

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