When This Old Farm first took root in Colfax, less than an hour’s drive from downtown Indianapolis, it was ten years before the nutrient-starved soil was restored and ready for grass. Erick and Jessica Smith had originally envisioned using the land for a vegetable garden, but when the soil is sickly, it turns out that what a vegetable garden really needs is a few animals.
Today, This Old Farm is a leader in sustainable, pasture-raised meats. They work with forty farms within fifty miles, enabling other local producers to process meats in a way that makes sense economically and environmentally.
“We try to help farmers figure out what’s best,” says Conner, Erick and Jessica’s teenage son, and one of the farm’s most valuable players.
For the Smith family, helping farmers figure out what’s best means researching and experimenting with new methods. One of the farm’s refrigerated compartments, for example, draws on Erick’s thesis in solar energy, and a fleet of reclaimed livestock trailers is the farm’s simple but brilliant solution to maintaining clean, nontoxic chicken coops.
“Farmers are smart,” says Conner, who, at 16, will be headed to Purdue this year. “We’re combating those old stereotypes about farmers and showing everyone what farmers can do.”
Words by Sarah Suksiri. Find her online here.