Regenerative farmers target nutrient density in RM of Livingston
Colin Rickard and Erin McLaughlin, owners of the New Berserker Farms in the RM of Livingston, describe their business as a small, regenerative farm that prides itself on producing cruelty-free, nutrient-dense raised meats.
Regenerative agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that replenish organic matter and restore biodiversity in the soil. Regenerative agriculture works with the land and its animals in a way that supports and depends on diversity.
Earlier this year, the couple quit high-paying jobs in Ontario to launch their dream of building a natural habitat where they could raise their own meat. The couple met at the gym and quickly connected with a mutual passion for healthy living. At the time, McLaughlin was working as a certified holistic nutritionist, personal trainer, and contributor to her parents’ automotive magazine. Rickard, an avid hunter and butcher, had a job with the government as a heavy equipment operator.
âA lot of people have told us they think we are crazy. I left a position with a good salary and a pension, âexplained Rickard. âBut I don’t regret anything. I haven’t worked so hard in my life, but I feel good. I love what we do and I sleep better than ever.
Before moving to Saskatchewan, Rickard and McLaughlin tested the waters with the homestead on land in Ontario of less than an acre. It was there that they gained invaluable knowledge by raising ducks, chickens and rabbits, as well as practicing fermentation techniques. The couple delved into a number of books and YouTube videos, deepening their understanding of the correlation between food and illness.
With soil quality issues and a population too dense for their liking, the couple looked westward for a more suitable and affordable home to manifest an even greater vision – raising their own animals on an 80-acre farm.
âOur journey has evolved from city dwellers to farmers and first generation farmers,â McLaughlin said. “We believe that optimal health is the birthright of every person and is made possible through our food.”
Berserker Farms offers its customers grass-fed and grass-finished cattle, pasture chicken, forest-raised A2 milk-fed pork and free-range chicken eggs. The couple are determined to ensure that animals raised at Berserker are free of antibiotics, hormones and GMOs.
âNot everyone has the means, the time or the interest to cultivate,â added Rickard. âIn Ontario, we used to buy our food from small farms, but it was often sold. We decided that the next step would be to grow our own food for ourselves and our community. We operate transparently and believe that health is not only determined by what we eat, but also by how it is grown. We encourage customers to come to our farm and see how our meat is raised.
âEverything we do is about creating a natural habitat in which our animals can thrive,â McLaughlin explained. âOur farm works with nature, not against it. This means supporting our cattle with top quality nutrition and enabling their own innate ability to fight disease and infection without the use of synthetic drugs. When animals are given dewormers, injections and antibiotics, these harmful drugs end up in the meat, which ends up in us. “
With this philosophy in mind, the couple see the farm floor as their own entity and aim to treat it with as much care and attention as any animal. Instead of fighting against nature, the team says they plan to work with it, allowing it to permanently rebuild itself while avoiding synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides that can damage the local ecosystem and ultimately , the food produced.
âBy raising our pasture chickens, the birds will receive an optimal natural diet by foraging for grass and insects. Not only does this improve the health and flavor of the chicken, it also increases the health of the pasture and the farm. Pastured chicken has a much higher ratio of omega 3 to omega 6, which is vital for human health and well-being, âexplained McLaughlin.
âWe also have a small herd of Dexter / Angus cattle that we grass feed and end up without antibiotics or growth hormones. Cattle are rotated on our chemical-free pastures in the spring and summer and fed hay and silage (fermented grass) in the winter. This practice keeps the beef naturally high in omega 3 fatty acids which are crucial for good health. The meat of grass-fed animals contains two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than the meat of grain-fed animals. We provide them with alfalfa / timothy hay, fresh grass in summer and natural minerals with garlic for natural fly and kelp control which is amazing for longevity, fertility and immunity. . In the harshest winters, they are also given a limited amount of beet pulp or alfalfa pellets to provide a little extra energy. The Dexters and Dexter / Angus (Dangus) crosses are smaller in size than your average commercial cattle breed and therefore not only do they end up smaller, but the cuts of meat are smaller, especially the steaks. Dexters also mature more slowly than commercial breeds. They are slaughtered between 20 and 24 months and aged at least 14 days before being cut and packaged. Our Dexters are slaughtered in early summer when they emerge from the fresh grass. This is when meat is the highest in omega 3 and CLA, and when it is the healthiest and tastiest.
With their progressive farming approach, Rickard and McLaughlin say that despite seeing their fair share of eyebrows raised from traditional farmers, they are happy with their commitment to quality over quantity.
âThe Berserkers were Viking warriors who fought in a fearless, almost insane fighting style. Legend has it that they were socially excluded and had a mysticism about them. We chose the name Berserker Farms because we believe it reflects our approach to farming. It’s unconventional, almost considered “crazy” among the conforming crowd. We also aspire to be fearless in our agricultural endeavors and hope to forge our own path with the help of Mother Nature and her mysticism. Viking culture is something we love too, as the Vikings were very much in tune with nature and its rhythms. There is no evidence in history that the Vikings plowed the land. And we all strive to keep the soil covered and keep the soil healthy. Back then, they didn’t have access to drugs or chemicals to cultivate, and we wanted our name to reflect that time, when they didn’t use those crutches. They raised strong and resilient animals and humans.
Berserker Farms offers free delivery to pickup points in Yorkton, Kamsack, Canora and Preeceville. Customers are also invited to pick up their orders directly from the farm. To learn more about the farm and how to order go to www.berserkerfarms.comor go to their Facebook page www.facebook.com/berserkerfarmssk.