Beaman’s “Grazier Farm”
PFI member Bill Beaman and his wife Mary have farmed in Southwest Iowa since 1982. They grow corn, beans, oats, hay in rotation and raise beef cattle, sheep, and chickens. Bill chairs a board of directors of a beginning farmer loan program that has loaned beginners money for beef cows, goats and sheep herd development. Also, Bill is an author and has a book coming out March 1, 2010 The Iowa Farmer’s Wife. Below is a conversation I had with Bill at a PFI Pasture Walk on his farm near Bedford, IA on July 30, 2009.
Bill Beaman: I’m Bill Beaman, and here we are in a farm in southwest Iowa between the towns of Lennox and Bedford on a cool July evening for our pasture walk that involves trying to reestablish some quail habitat here on our farm. This is a project that came about because I was a member of a Practical Farmers of Iowa grazing cluster. And one of the offshoots of our pasture management schemes has been trying to manage our wildlife and let it prosper while we’re also managing our cow and sheep, grazing animals. We’re fortunate to be a part of this project and the ground you see behind me would be seeded later this winter for crops just to make the quail have a better habitat for them. Part of our hope is to take care of this farm and its wildlife and take care of the diversity of these animals that we enjoy seeing.
Luke Gran: What made you want to join PFI? When did you start your membership with PFI?
Bill Beaman: It seems like I’ve been a member of PFI ten or twelve years, maybe it’s been longer. We’ve been looking for some different farming systems other than corn-soybeans, corn-soybeans, ways to better market our products and take care of our land. That seems to be what PFI stands for – sustainable farming and sustainable communities. It’s been a real asset to us; I go to field days at other PFI members farms, and if I have a question, I can call Vic Madsen a PFI member, he’s been a real good mentor to us – any number of people on livestock – grass finishing and type of thing. Organic, we’ve struggled with that. So, PFI is just a sharing group of people that believes in a lot of things that my wife and I believe in for a farm.
Luke Gran: Great. Why do you like to raise grass-fed animals?
Bill Beaman: Well, we like to raise animals period – we like to have something out on a grass hill. The challenge is, sometimes you don’t get paid enough for what you do. You raise a calf, you wean it off the cow, and you send it to market, so far of being sustainable is to generate some income, and we think there could be some financial rewards, above and beyond conventional cattle. We’re always trying to add value more value to our grazing operation – and grass fed certainly beef and sheep would be one way. The other thing is the joy of actually finishing something out – we don’t have a desire to finish cows up on a feedlot – and the economics have been pretty tough the last year or two – and we can do it out on the pasture. So, with finishing, you finish the job, you finish the animal, you get to see what it looks like when its fully developed, you even get some feedback on the kind of meat you’re producing and what the consumer says, and that’s almost entirely impossible in the conventional cattle business. That’s why we wanted to do, grass finishing.
Luke Gran: How can a consumer buy your beef, or your lambs?