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Greener Pastures ‘a bit hippy,’ more about producing profitable sustainability

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

The name - Greener Pastures Eco Farm - and website descriptor - ‘On a farming adventure committed to the health of our land, our animals and our community’ - is not misleading.

But customers arriving anticipating a ‘super hippy’ may be surprised when meeting co-owner/operator Carl Van Rooyen.

Andrea and Carl Van Rooyen are backed by their own interpretation of a ‘chicken tractor’, a mobile shelter for pastured poultry.

There is certainly no question about his commitment to regenerative farming inspired by pasture-raised guru Joel Salatin’s example, or Van Rooyen’s passion for leading his family into their best agricultural life.

But ‘super hippy’ may be a tad strong for a person who attended business school and sees his efforts as a financially viable and sustainable multi-generational operation rather than a short-term trendy fad.

“I’m not (super hippy),” he laughed at the Oxford County pasture-raised beef, poultry and pork farm. “I’m pretty hippy - but I’m also trying to make money.”

The Van Rooyen’s family farming ‘adventure’ began in 2015 near Innerkip, subsequently continuing with wife Andrea and their three daughters. Although Carl may tend towards being the spokesperson, he emphasizes the effort is very much a partnership between he and Andrea, involving the entire family.

“It would not be possible without both of us giving 100 per cent.”

Currently, they are on a 75-acre property south of Eastwood along Oxford Road 14, embracing the broad principles of humanely raised, heritage breeds and pasture-based. Loosely, the approach mimics animals in their natural state, says Van Rooyen.

“A cow needs to graze, a chicken needs to scratch, a pig needs to dig.”

Prioritizing heritage breeds is more practical than philosophical, given the largely-Tamworth swine herd are hairy (so they don’t sunburn), cold-hardy and disease-resistant.

“Heritage breeds are more efficient in our model of farming.”

Twenty-five acres of the property are bush, with around 45 of the remainder dedicated to high-intensity, rotational pasture.

Van Rooyen uses the term ‘layering’ to describe the process of sequentially moving his 40-member mainly Belted Galloway herd through the property, conditioned to follow mobile electric fence repositioning onto fresh pasture twice daily, supplemented by hay (‘winter grazing’) through the winter months. His pasture-raised beef animals take a minimum of 24 months and a maximum of 30 to finish, compared to 18 for more conventional production.

Van Rooyen emphasizes he is not a scientist, nor are the following his claims, however proponents believe the pasture-raised approach results in higher levels of vitamins A, D and E as well as a better base of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, comparable to fish for Omega 3.

“But again, that’s not my claim, it’s other people’s claims.”

Pasture-raised beef does command a premium over conventionally-grown product, reflected in part says Van Rooyen by the extended growth period and additional management requirements. “It’s a little more labour intensive.”

The beef herd’s passage is followed five or six days later by chickens, mimicking the natural process of birds following herds of buffalo to capitalize on the additional insects and by-products they have left. “The chickens go to town and eat all that extra protein.”

The poultry flock is supported by a mobile chicken ‘tractor’, Van Rooyen’s interpretation of mobile Salatin housing expanded and reduced in weight for ease of transportation in his absence by Andrea or their children (13 and under). As a converted urbanite Andrea has embraced country living - with reasonable restrictions.

“I had to make sure she wasn’t going to sell the farm on me when I’m gone,” Carl laughed.

The farm has ample bush, the preferred habitat for free-roaming swine.

“So we try to respect that, but they are hard on the bush.”

Their tendency to root deeply into the soil can also be destructive on pasture, resulting in what Van Rooyen describes as a ‘tricky’ balance between feed value and damage.

“We’re learning, we raise them out on pasture and keep them moving as much as possible.”

Efficiently rotating beef, poultry and pork advantageously over the same piece of ground effectively expands its operational capability.

“We’re layering it, so my 75 acres can do what a conventional farmer might do with 200 acres.”

Van Rooyen also believes that every pass over his land is improving the soil, regenerating rather than simply sustaining, or leaving it as good as it was received.

“The farm is actually getting better all the time,” he said. “And I hope to be able to take soil samples some day to prove it.”

Although in favour of organics, Greener Pastures is not fully certified organic, rather what Van Rooyen refers to as ‘ecological’ or customer ‘self certified.’ Any supplementary feed or minerals ingested by the beef or poultry is certified organic, however the swine are fed supplementary local by-products which are not. Cattle are castrated due to their contact with heifers as are pigs, but the latter’s tails and teeth are left in a natural state. Van Rooyen does not have a vaccination regimen.

“Our farming allows us to not have to vaccinate.”

He will however treat animals with antibiotics if they are ill, which are then taken out of the farm’s retail stream, either eaten by the family or shipped out.

Consumer ‘self certification’ refers to an open farm policy whereby the public is welcome to visit, view practices personally, ask questions and take a tour in a converted manure spreader to form their own conclusions about whether they wish to embrace how Greener Pastures meat is raised.

“We are still learning, but we are to the point where we can start educating people on where

your food comes from and making educated decisions,” says Van Rooyen, who encourages a personal relationship between farmer and consumers, and is prepared to do his part in that equation. “Whether you end up buying from us or another farmer, know your farmer.

“We love what we are doing, I love sharing our story,” he continued, adding with a laugh, “Andrea would agree I love hearing myself talk.”

Greener Pasture’s clientele is varied, diverse demographically and culturally, including a recent group of professional body builders who power their iron pumping with a 100 per cent beef diet. Initially, demand doubled year to year, but for the past three, Van Rooyen is halfway to his goal of processing 25 animals annually. Pricewise, he started out ‘middle to high end’, but after seven to eight years of consistent pricing, $8.50 per pound of lean ground beef is only a slight premium over the $7.50 to $8.00 he sees in grocery stores he has no intention of trying to compete with.

“I’m not interested in a race to the bottom,” he explained of the theory of being a price maker, not price taker.

The couple sells Saturday mornings at the Woodstock Farmer’s Market and also operates an onsite retail outlet, which features products from Blue Cow Delivery ( and an even dozen other area producers. The dedicated website ( also provides access to an online store and other associated information.

Although some may consider Van Rooyen’s model unorthodox and question whether it is capable of ‘feeding the world’, he contests more smaller farms can be both viable and efficient.

“We don’t have a food production issue in our world, we have a food distribution issue.”

And in conclusion, Van Rooyen also hopes and believes it’s an approach his own and other subsequent generations would be more likely to embrace.

“I think if we did more farming like this, our youth would be more engaged and interested.”


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