Welcome to Arcadian Acres!
We are a small family farm in Athens County Ohio, dedicated to organically and naturally working with and helping preserve the best heritage breeds and heirloom varieties our world has to offer.
We choose to do this by following the best way nature has shown us, by in fact imitating nature with organic pasture raised methods. We believe that this is best for every reason from the plant or animal’s health and happiness, to the quality of the nutrition and taste when a product ends up on your table to be consumed. In the days of big ag and corporate farming, we realize our methods are met with skepticism by modern conventional farming, but we hold true to the time tested sustainability, and viability that these methods can provide if done properly. If you support local businesses, family farms, sustainable eco-friendly practices, diversified selection, or the freedom to know and choose where your food comes from and how its raised, you’ve come to the right place.
Who, Where, Why, and How…
From Columbus Ohio originally, I (Neil) found my way to the farmers life through the diversified journey that has been my life. After backpacking through Europe the summer after graduation, it wasn’t long before I moved to Pittsburgh to pursue a Le Cordon Bleu culinary degree. This led to my time spent working at the five star five diamond hotel resort in Colorado Springs, The Broadmoor. I gradually honed my culinary skills rotating through a number of styles of kitchens, cuisines, and culinary related work, while also developing my love for all things in nature in exploring the Rocky Mountains. After I felt I had accomplished all that I could in Colorado I set out on my next chapter in life.
I traveled around for a bit exploring different options, but ended up back in Columbus to be closer to friends and family, and use as a base while deciding on where I truly wanted to be. I took a job managing a string of Buca Di Beppo restaurants, an Italian chain I had worked for towards the end of culinary school before heading west.
After having lived in Colorado Springs at the foot of the mountains, and always having had a love of nature, I new I did not want to stay in the city. Both sides of my family come from farming backgrounds, one in the Sydney/Springfield area of Ohio, and the other from the Athens/Plains area. In addition to that, I had worked at Smoke Rise Dude and Cattle Ranch in Glouster Ohio for several years during breaks from school, so had an added history in the Athens County area. I considered various places around the country and world, and almost moved to both Alaska, and Hawaii; as well as Washington, Oregon, and Wyoming. It came down to the fact that I wanted to be closer than two thousand miles from home. That being the case, Athens County was decided on. With being at the foot of Appalachia, it offers much of the scenic beauty of our other considerations, while being only a little over an hour from Columbus. The famous Athens Farmers Market didn’t hurt the appeal either!
Eventually, I grew tired of the corporate world and left Buca. While in Colorado years earlier, a server at one of the restaurants had asked if I would be interested in doing any private cooking on the side. As it turned out he had gone to high school with what was then the trainer for the Denver Bronco’s and about half the Colorado Avalanche. A player had just been traded to the Cleveland Browns, was told to loose some weight, and to hire a private chef to make sure he was eating right. Needless to say I jumped on the opportunity. A good thing it was too, as once I eventually left corporate America, he quickly had his foot in the door for being a private chef. In addition to cooking, I also lobbied for several causes, and took several side jobs with friends who have various businesses in construction, landscaping, electric, and plumbing, in order to attain the skills we youth of today are robbed of in attending public schools.
While all this was going on, I kept my eyes closely on properties available in and around Athens. Eventually, I found a perfect little plot of seventeen acres just outside of town. It was everything I had been looking for, and I did not hesitate to make the move. It took a while to secure a loan, but it eventually worked out. With the limited acreage, mostly being wooded, I ended up deciding on Suri Alpaca, and a bed and breakfast on our property. I kept cooking and taking side jobs, and before I knew it, I was on my way.
As previously mentioned, some of my family is from the Athens area. Sadly it was less than a year after moving down before my Great Uncle passed away, and Great Aunt moved to a nursing home, and off the one hundred nine acre family farm of almost two hundred years. It wasn’t long before the discussion on what to do with the farm was started. After much talk in the family, it was realized that no one wanted to take over the farm, and that maybe it should just be parceled out and sold off. In hearing this as a possibility, as well as the type of farming potential that the farm would provide being a long time dream of mine, I immediately offered to take on the challenge of saving the farm. A large part of deciding on Athens was in its progressive localized organic farming community and the food they provide. Between the dream, the rate of family farms being stomped out by corporate farming, and what I had seen as different areas of food product not offered currently in the area, I knew I had to do this. I don’t consider it as much a decision, as a personal, social, and moral obligation.
When I first moved down to the little ranch, which I named Quipus Alpaca Ranch (http://www.QuipusAlpacaRanch.com), I wanted to get chickens to raise myself for eggs and meat. Having gone to a Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, which is focused on classical French cooking, I learned about the bird that was considered the standard chicken eggs within the royalty and nobility in France during the time of the great Escoffier and other classical French Chefs; the Black Copper Marans. While teaching the historical significance of them, the school failed to mention their extreme rarity in America. With only four respected bloodlines and a few handfuls of breeders of the French standard in the US, I had to be placed on waiting lists to get a hold of these rare lovelies. It had never occurred to me that something like this could be the case, “Chickens so rare you must get on a waiting list to obtain?” It was talking to Bev Davis, the proverbial Marans Guru of America, that I was referred to Greenfire Farms in Florida. Bev only develops the lines at this point, and had handed off the commercial side to Greenfire. Greenfire opened my eyes to something that has alluded the public knowledge for too long; the existence and amount of endangered heritage breed livestock.
First off, a heritage breed is a breed of animal that is the result of many generations of naturally selected landrace animals, and selectively breeding. The ones used and developed through generations of farmers determining what traits are the most desirable given a particular purpose, region, or environment. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy is the organization who has tasked itself with identifying, keeping track of, and publicizing the different endangered statuses of the various heritage breeds. I immediately started working with them to develop, learn, find, obtain, and do my part to repopulate the breeds we decided on. Please take the time to visit their site and learn of their amazing efforts and accomplishments. http://www.albc-usa.org/
So the first question is: “Why are these animals going extinct?” Sadly, it ties right in with the big ag farming. In the last 70 years, corporations have industrialized the agricultural industry. That’s not an opinion, its just the way it is. In doing so, they also decided that we only need one type of cow for beef, one for dairy, one type of pig, one type of chicken, etc. This being the standard of the industry, you see statistics like 98% of beef is Angus, 92% of dairy is Holstein, and almost 100% of chickens are Cornish Cross. Yes, that’s monoculture; that great thing that resulted in the Irish potato famine. With these kinds of numbers, the literally thousands of naturally occurring, or traditional heritage breeds are left to the wayside, deemed “undesirable” or “unsuitable” for today’s standards. A standard that is based on the most greedy, and ignorant train of thought. Now that IS an opinion. Hopefully if you’ve gotten this far, you agree on that.
The next question is: “Why have we never heard of endangered heritage breeds of livestock?” We’ve all learned about the dwindling numbers of Silver Back Gorillas, White Rhinos, and Asian Elephants… but you never hear about the critically endangered Randall Cattle, Red Wattle Hogs, or Redcap chickens whose numbers would make the Silver Back Gorillas endangered status seem like a joke. That bothered me. I thought to myself: “Not only are these animals what history and our ancestors have selected and proven to be the best, they’re endangered because of big ag and corporate farming, and nobodies ever heard of them? Outrageous!” When I factored in the reality that the reason these animals are not suited for a factory setup is that they do not do well in closed confinement being pumped with steroids, and forced to stand there eating absurd amounts of genetically engineered, herbicide and pesticide sprayed “corn”, it all made even more sense. As you can guess, it wasn’t long before we decided to make these endangered parts of our past the focus in saving the family farm. It’s kind of fitting, save the family farm, by saving the environment, by saving endangered animals.
So there you have it. A break down of who I am, how I got here, and why I choose to dedicate the rest of my lire to these various righteous causes. I hope you feel the same way about these and other related issues, and encourage you to spread the word! The more people who choose not to financially support the demons of corporate farming, the sooner the standard will be readjusted to the natural healthy ways they should be.
I have chosen to dedicate the rest of my life to restore several pieces of history and provide you, your family, and your children with the finest, healthiest, most honorable food possible. I do not come from a wealthy background, nor am I inheriting the farms for free. Everything I am doing is met with many different levels and kinds of obstacles, most of which come with big price tags that I cannot afford. If what I am doing is something you believe in, please consider donating to the farm through the paypal link provided. We will accept any donation, of any size, as well as regularly scheduled bi weekly, monthly, or annual donations. Arcadian Acres is not a non-profit organization, so cannot offer tax write offs for your donations, and in fact, will have to pay taxes on them as the IRS looks at them as income. Nor are we a corporation to be buying stock in. I do however, personally vow and pledge to myself and to you, that “All monies donated to Arcadian Acres Farms will go to nothing other than the restoration, development, care and progression of the farm.” In other words, at no time will anyone’s money be used to take a vacation, buy a new sweater, or anything of that nature. Still in the process of setting up a page to display all donation amounts donated by all persons, as well as a spending chart to show where the funds are going. This way you can be credited to your part in the saving of everything we are working towards, as well as have confidence in your contribution. We realize times are tough, but in spite of these times, we all must do our parts to stand up and support what we feel is right, just, and important.
Please do not hesitate to contact with any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions. This is almost entirely still a word of mouth movement that needs the support and feedback of everyone involved on all sides. Please do keep in mind however, the fact that I am doing this almost by myself. This means two things: One, that I am extremely busy and it might take a while to get back to you on certain issues. Two, that I am open to and in need of any and all honest and hardworking volunteers, interns, externs, and farmhands, as there is a seemingly endless amount of work to do on a farm. If you’ve ever considered a life of working with the land, animals, and for a good cause, come check us out… you might just want to stay!
Lastly, I want to thank all of you who have and continue to show your overwhelming support for myself and this massive set of tasks. It never ceases to amaze me, the kind of emotional and personal thanks and encouragement people feel and show when talking about these issues. I have to say, when someone tears up and hugs you for doing the things you do in spite of all odds, it feels good; and it keeps me motivated that this is the right thing.
THANK YOU ALL, AND YOU ARE ALL WELCOME!