|Stanley & Evan Hall|
South Paoli, IN
Hall Farms, owned by Stanley Hall, is a 530-acre farm located in South Paoli, Indiana. Stanley and his son Evan raise pigs without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Hall Farms' pork was featured in Farm Aid's HOMEGROWN Chili served at this year's Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, marking a very proud day for the Hall Family.
Stanley Hall can say something pretty special: he has raised his children in the same place where he, his father and grandfather have all grown up.
"For several generations it has been a father-son farming operation," he explains. Today, Hall Farms is moving into its fifth generation of ownership, and continues to carry on a tradition of quality meat and feed.
At an early age, Stanley understood that farming was the only profession he really wanted to pursue. "I did work off of the farm for one summer, and that just reinforced the belief that I wanted to be a farmer," he recalls. He started taking care of his own livestock and vegetables around the age of fifteen, and continued to farm all the way through college. When he graduated, he moved back home and took over the farm full time.
"I loved the idea of being my own boss and being responsible for the farm," he says. Stanley also loves the natural rhythms by which the farm operates. "The idea of putting a seed in the ground and watching it grow, or raising an animal from a baby clear on up—that gives me a lot of satisfaction," he says. Stanley also finds satisfaction in pursuing sustainable farm management practices. For example, he uses his own corn, hay, and some soybean to the feed for his livestock, so his farm runs in a large cycle of planting, harvesting and feeding, rather than entirely relying on feed from some far away place.
On their 530 acre farm, the Halls grow corn, soybean and hay, and raise cattle and the pork they market as all-natural. The Halls' farm has three employees, including Stanley, his son Evan and a part-time farm hand. Stanley's father also helps out around the shop with less physically demanding tasks, and has taken on the job of fixing up the tractors when they break down. "I guess you can call it a two-and-a-half-man operation," Stanley jokes.
Several years ago, Stanley asked himself the question, "What do I want to feed my family?" At that point, he was still using antibiotics for all of his livestock, and was spending thousands of dollars on different pills to guarantee that his pigs and cattle would reach the market. But one day he received an order that was going to be shipped to Asia, requesting that the pigs not be exposed to antibiotics. "I fulfilled that order, and after that I never went back," he reflects. "I found out that I could get along quite well without them, and I was able to find new markets that were looking for antibiotic-free pork."
Although going antibiotic-free was the right choice for Stanley, he did have to change a few things on the farm in order to turn a profit. "It does cost more to raise pigs in this type of market; they don't gain weight as fast and you have to be more careful in your production practices," he explains. One precaution is to guarantee that he gets healthy pigs from the beginning.
"I absolutely have to start with clean animals," he says. Stanley has found a consistently reliable source for healthy pigs in North Dakota. They work closely with Stanley to find pigs with optimum characteristics that will provide quality meat to the consumer. The animals are tested thoroughly before they are brought to Indiana by truck, and spend some time in isolation on a nearby farm just to make sure they don't have any problems. "Once they are cleared as completely healthy, they are introduced into the herd here at our farm," he explains.
Stanley also has to take precautions to prevent disease from being brought onto his farm. "We have what you call a 'closed farm,'" he says, meaning visitors are not able to have any contact with the animals. "I just can't take the risk of having people bring in diseases to my animals," he says. Stanley also thinks a lot about the food he feeds his livestock. "We use corn from the farm, and use a reputable source for our soybean meal, vitamins and trace minerals." He makes sure the feed his livestock eat has no animal by-products to ensure a completely safe feed for the animals.
Stanley's choice to go antibiotic-free is also influenced by health concerns. According to recent estimates from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, nearly 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States are given to farm animals – not because they are sick, but to encourage growth and compensate for crowded living conditions that can spread disease rapidly. There is growing concern about how this common practice affects our food and our health, especially concerning the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can cause serious human illness and sometimes death.
Stanley explains, "It is all about what you want to put into your body, and if you want bacteria in your body to be resistant to antibiotics." By going antibiotic-free, Stanley has avoided that potential threat for himself and his family and sees it as an obvious choice. "A lot of it is up to you and also who you want to support." Stanley shares that a lot of farmers raise antibiotic-free pigs for their own families. He thinks, why not raise them that way for everyone else? The answer is a financial one, because making that transition can be risky. But that was a chance Stanley was willing to take, and in the end, it was a decision that really worked out for him.
Stanley says that Hall Farms is one of only a handful of farms in southern Indiana producing antibiotic-free pork for sale, and a strong example of a farm that made the switch without losing a profit. "People show an interest in us and love to see the process and how we got to where we are today. I can't think of any criticism that we have received, and mostly people just want to know how we're doing and how we found a market for our product."
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