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The Legacy of Heritage

June 11, 2012

For thousands of years farmers around the world raised livestock and crops that fit their ecosystem. As the scientific community began to provide the means for larger and larger corporate farms to produce a more consistent product,  thousands of non-commercial animal breeds and crop varieties began to disappear, along with the valuable genetic diversity they possessed. Fortunately, a growing number of sustainable farmers are preserving agricultural variety and protecting biodiversity by raising “heritage” or “heirloom” animal breeds and crops.

Stephanie and  Jim Pauley own the Pauley’s Rowdy Acres Farm on 30 acres in Franklin Furnace, Ohio with the goal of raising heritage breeds. They have turkeys, pigs, goats, rabbits and chickens as well as three horses.

Stephanie has been taking orders for Thanksgiving turkeys.  She recognizes that people, even when they know they are not getting a supermarket/commercial turkey, seem surprised at the difference. The type of bird most people buy at the grocery store are bred for large breasts and typically are fed to grow rapidly. Their additional weight usually results in an inability to fly and can even result in broken legs for the largest birds. In comparison, the heritage breeds she raises, Blue Slates, Black Spanish, Lilac Standard Bronze and Royal Palms, are all smaller and end up more moist and flavorful.  In fact, a blind taste test at Ayrshire Farms in Virginia in 2008 clearly indicated the preference for the heritage birds.

Several goats enjoy wandering the property. They provide milk and anything the family can’t consume is enjoyed by the pigs, but Stephanie is looking into offering herd shares.

perched inside a shed for a nap

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The farm is located on hilly land with woods roads that provide riding trails for their horses. They back up to the Wayne State Forest and once they clear some access, they can extend their rides to the 300 miles of trails there. 

The pigs are in an area up the ridge and the Pauleys shift the pen periodically to encourage clearing of vegetation. They currently have five Tamworth pigs and believe they will have several litters soon. They plan to keep 3 breeders and will be processing pork before long.

Stephanie spent a lot of her childhood on a small farm and after getting a degree in early childhood education and working as a social worker for Family First, she is happy to be at home. Jim grew up near Michigan as a rural farmboy, living the 4-H lifestyle. He now works construction and Morton has him out of state right now, coming home when he can and then usually working the chores that have piled up.  He is philosophical about the income but longs to be home. Stephanie misses him; being essentially a single parent of the four boys at home makes for very full, active days.

Final note: Eli was proud to tell me that the “black chicken” is his favorite.

To order eggs now and turkeys for Thanksgiving, contact Stephanie at

Pauley’s Rowdy Acres  1 (740) 574-6047

15 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2012 7:18 pm

    I was surprised to see rabbits in your photos of heritage foods. Where once the consumption of rabbits was common in the United States, it is now being considered offensive since most (like the domesticated breed shown) rank #3 in household pet popularity and #1 among college students.
    Much more importantly though, as a food source, they are about as poor as one gets in nutritional value and should be absent in a healthy diet.
    Rabbit starvation, also referred to as protein poisoning or mal de caribou, is a form of acute malnutrition due to it’s unusually lean meat. To depend on rabbit as a nutritional food source can be dangerous. Before it was discovered why, death by mal de caribou was common in our early American history and cases of severe malnutrition and death are still being reported in rural sections of the Country today.
    Some animals, while being consumed healthily by other animals should not be consumed by humans, rabbits are one of these.
    While we who write stories of the old west have a preference of describing a campfire with a rabbit roasting above it as the norm, in reality, back then western folk were aware of mal de caribou and chose to eat dried meats (Pemmican and Jerky) rather than rabbit if fresh meat was unavailable. Not judgin’, just sayin’. JW

    • June 11, 2012 7:38 pm

      Joe, I will pass it on. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  2. June 11, 2012 9:45 pm

    Please do not pass on the erroneous information –

    Rabbit meat is an exceptionally high quality, high protein and low fat –

    The conversion of feed to meat ratio and the ability to multiply on a forage diet
    makes the rabbit possibly one of the best choices, if not the best choice, for a sustainable,
    small farm. They are low impact, easy to feed on a non-GMO diet and something anyone – regardless of farm size – can easily raise.

    Many Rabbit breeds are listed as and well known to be heritage breeds raised and used to help sustain family farms through our history.

    I personally have talked to many rural families who grew up on rabbits as one of their main sources of food here in rural Appalachia, my father and grandfather being two of those people, and they were/are the epitome of health. I personally know many families today that farm and have rabbit meat as a stable of their diet, and all of these families see superior health to those I know that eat store bought, processed and factory farmed garbage foods.
    The breed above, an American Chinchilla, is a threatened and very rare breed, along with the Silver Fox, and the American is listed as Critical on the ALBC website – the authority in heritage foods, having coined the term. They are are breeds with a history as meat breeds in this county before industrialized farming took over.

    No one would use, if they have a choice, rabbits as their sole source of nutrition, but as part of a sustainable, local foods diet, they are an amazing choice! I am shocked anyone could attempt to argue otherwise.

    Historically, Indians did not eat rabbits as often because of how low fat the meat was, true; however, that has no influence in the modern diet choices we should make – Indians labored to a degree we do not, have no access to heavily fatty meats we now use even on a small farm, did not use dairy products which are high in good fats and considering all of that – the choice to avoid the leanest of meats made sense – in the modern world choosing very lean meats as often as possible makes sense, though it is worth nothing that domestic rabbits are not as lean an offering as wild rabbits, either.

    Rabbit meat makes a great choice in our modern society for those that are overweight, have cholesterol problem, heart disease or already get their fats from the use of dairy products and other foods, are most of us do.

    A 10 lb rabbit can produce 320 lbs of meat a year in offspring – consider that when you figure what a cow can produce on 3 acres – often adding in grain and medications to raise them to slaughter size.

    The concept of all rabbits as pet is a misguided one.

    The breeds listed above where not developed as pet breeds – they were bred to be meat breeds.

    To judge the rabbit’s meat based on what happens if it is the sole source of nutrition makes no sense. Any food item, by and large, will cause health problems if you use it as your sole source of nutrition – this is simple to understand. Green beans are a healthy part of a diet – try to leave on them alone. . . will not work.

    Wild rabbits can carry a bacteria that can infect humans – note, this is wild rabbits – however, all animals and vegetables can carry all sorts of bacteria that can be toxic –

    So please, those reading the blog – research and use common sense – you will likely arrive at the same conclusions I have on the subject –

    Tinia Creamer
    Lucas Farm 🙂

    • June 11, 2012 9:53 pm

      Thanks for your info Tinia. We can use the comments as a forum for discussion. You raise some interesting considerations specifically about the rabbits and generally about having a well balanced diet for best nutrition.

  3. June 11, 2012 10:10 pm

    I meant no offense and I hope you were not offended by my comments regarding rabbits. I just wanted to educate folks on the downside of using rabbits for food. Many small meat breeders are unaware of Mal De Caribou and the dangers of malnutrition associated with eating rabbits, especially in children. Most consumers of rabbit do so out of cultural diet and remain uninformed of the dangers. I am a professional cook, former cattle rancher and western story writer. All three require the ability to do vast amounts of research. I am also an avid meat eater, but I limit it to buffalo, grass fed beef, pork and free range poultry. I do not eat meat if the animal has been fed feed containing hormones or products unnatural to its normal diet like corn and animal by products.

    As far as the breed of rabbit in the picture, it appears to be a 1920’s meat breed known as the Heavyweight or American Chinchilla. According to the ARBA, the first Chinchillas were bred by a French engineer M.J. Dybowski for their meat and fur and were shown for the first time in April 1913 at Saint-Maur, France. Heavier than other breeds of rabbit, the Chinchilla hit the market with a bang but the meat was still nutritionally dangerous. When the reason for Mal De Caribou was discovered the demand for all rabbit meat plummeted. By 1919 Rabbit breeding was mainly only for their fur . By the 1970’s commercial rabbit fur production was nearly extinct in the United States. Today the vast majority of rabbit breeds (47) are purchased solely as pets. Show rabbits have now declined in popularity due to the discouragement of breeding Mills.

    As a natural and heritage food, the rabbit is neither. Wild rabbits though ‘natural’ contain trichinosis and many other health hazards. I read once where 3 chick peas had more nutritional fat value than a wild rabbit. No wonder folks got Mal De Caribou.

    Still, it is a long way off before folks believe and accept these facts. I truly root for anyone going ‘natural’ and wanting to put clean healthy food on their table. I especially am excited for the Wild Ramp food market and it’s success.  JW

    • June 11, 2012 10:23 pm

      I think your comments were offered well. Each of us comes into the concern for healthy food from different backgrounds and perspectives and experiences. Together we can provide good information to help the consumers make better informed decisions. Remember, folks, I am one of those foodies and am eagerly soaking up what I can learn from you as well as others, including webs research for the WVFarm2u Collaborative on issues that are a lot more volatile.

      I will suggest to the powers that be at Wild Ramp that we develop a Forum for more involved discussion as situations arise that may prompt more discussion. Give me a second or two (joking) to put that together.

      • June 11, 2012 11:05 pm

        I think a forum is an excellent idea. It may encourage all to do research before committing themselves in writing! good idea!!!

      • June 11, 2012 11:17 pm

        Look for a write up about rabbits in the WVFarm2u blog, again, remembering that the blog concept is to educate the eating public who is interested in local foods…..this will NOT be a PhD dissertation, I promise you. LOL

      • June 11, 2012 11:34 pm

        great, I have to remember to leave my rants to myself more. 🙂
        You deserve two thumbs up on your blog, I’m excited for you!

  4. June 12, 2012 12:13 am

    The American Chinchilla is most definitely both a natural, heritage food. Anyone can do that research themselves. Here is just one website that offers it….. You can read that resource.

    As far as this rabbit starvation disease you warn us about, I don’t think it is pertinent with a well balanced diet. Please do not get on a blog about a small farm raising food for others and attempt to discredit what they are doing. So yes, I am concerned and even a bit offended as I’m sure the other farmers raising rabbits will too.

    Mal de Caribou affects people who overly consume any lean meat. I doubt that there are any of us that eat rabbit and only rabbit today in this region with abundant and varied food sources as much as it would take to even exhibit signs of this disease. Also the other factors, such as intense exposure to extreme cold or dry conditions would not be found here.

    There are so many other diseases we as Americans need to worry about…heart disease, cancers, diabetes, on and on…that the “warnings” about rabbit meat are downright silly.

    By the way, the American Chinchilla is a meat rabbit. It is not a pet rabbit such as the Holland Lop. So , yes people eat them or breed them. They don’t keep them as pets.

    • June 12, 2012 1:04 am

      Thanks Stephanie.

      Again, I want to reiterate that Joe’s comments are based on his experience and it is okay to raise issues for discussion. This blog was not being written when I went through a bit of an extremist attitude as I began to learn and I needed someone on the WVFarm2u blog to pull me back to calm down. So now, I have the fire hose out to cool anyone and everyone…..let’s TALK, present concerns, give good info and remember that the readers are learning like I am, baby steps and we need to bring them along slowly in order for them to learn and decide to include something new in their eating habits.

  5. June 12, 2012 12:53 am

    Thank you Tinia! I was just saying (basically) the same thing to my husband. You type it out loud much better then I would…lol!

  6. June 12, 2012 5:31 am

    But to be fair, while you say he speaks from experience, I don’t see Joe mentioning actual experience with rabbits – raising them, eating them, knowing those raising them, eating them or any talk of raising any heritage breeds – he insists on making statements that simple logic disprove and has not yet show experience in the type of animal he is speaking of. He explains issues that are archaic and not applicable in any way in modern times and little else. Additionally, he continues to say the breed in question is not a heritage breed when both Stephanie and I have linked to the authority on heritage breeds and the organization that coined the term and have shown that the breed is not only listed but it one of the most rare of the listed breeds.

    Allowing true issues and facts to be raised is fair and educational, but allowing random statements that are unfounded in fact are not helpful to anyone.

    I rest assured the average, intelligent reader will not only read what is here, but research on their own. . . and naturally see the exact same things I’ve outlined to be true, but it is possible that some damage from such unfounded comments above will exist for those who are fearful of new things and look for reasons to choose to not look outside the typical factory farmed offerings in the store.

    • June 12, 2012 10:28 am

      First, I want to reiterate that I will generally permit all content to be posted here in comments, editing only if I think it is needed to lighten any emotional stress. I do not like censorship. Removing Joe’s comments at this point would require major editing anyway of everyone’s comments because they would not make sense. So, let’s continue and understand that there is going to be controversy from time to time because of difference of opinion.

      The WVFarm2u blog had a similar heated exchange over the menu options at a restaurant where the manager said he sometimes could NOT use local farm ingredients. That was truth. Maybe not desired, but at this point, until public consumption and demand goes up, the supply by farmers is going to follow, not set the pace, and anyone looking only for local ingredients either has to change the menu often, like Panorama on the Peak (Berkeley Springs) does, or find sources to fill the hole. Issues exist. As we address them, they will diminish.

      You, the farmers, are light years ahead of us, the consumers, in understanding the product you supply. The purpose of this blog is to help educate interested consumers about all the options that exist here in the Tristate region and more specifically at the Wild Ramp Market. There will always be people who curl their lip or turn up their noses at foods that were not offered by their parents when they were small kids. There will always be a smaller group of people who will raise their eyebrows and ponder how some new item might fit into their lifestyle and on their plate.

      Our task is to introduce those curious people to the choices that exist. Reading Joe’s concerns and your responses to alleviate those concerns is a better approach than not raising issues at all.

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