Farmer: Valerie Samutin
Location: Shelbyville, Ky.
Specialty: grassfed, forage-fed livestock
It all started with a leg of lamb. When Valerie Samutin and her husband, George, decided to recreate their wedding feast—lamb marinated in pomegranate juice, garlic and herbs, roasted on an open fire by the groom himself —they found that they couldn’t find the lamb they were looking for: 100-percent grassfed and Certified Organic. That’s when they realized they needed to raise the lamb themselves. The Samutin family’s love of cooking with fresh, quality ingredients led these former city-dwellers to move to the country full-time in order to raise their own livestock, produce and bees.
Owned and operated by Valerie Samutin, with help from fellow farmer Claudia Montes Shreve, Freedom Run Farm happens to be entirely run by women (though Samutin’s husband will, on occasion, step in when she takes a Sunday off). While they sometimes face physical challenges that might be easier for male farmers, Samutin says that what they lack in muscle, she and Montes Shreve make up for in brainpower and ingenuity.
Today, Freedom Run Farm holds the distinction of being the first farm in Kentucky to be 100-percent grassfed certified by Animal Welfare Approved, a label that means that the animals are raised according to strict welfare and environmental standards. They decided to raise their Angus cattle and Katahdin sheep completely on grass and forage because, as Samutin puts it, “We believe that the health of land, animals and our food supply are deeply tied together.”
Freedom Run Farm is dedicated to maintaining a “harmonious and healthy food chain,” working with the natural cycles of their livestock and managing their land in a way that benefits the animals, the soil and the fields.
When we first started out, many people told us that we wouldn’t be able to raise sheep in a Certified Organic system or that we wouldn’t be able to get lambs to market weight on grass alone. We have managed to do both and produce a very healthy, tasty product! Our biggest farming success has been to be able to bring friends and family together around an amazing meal that we have grown ourselves, to share the highest quality food we can bring to the table.
The biggest farming challenge by far is to be paid a living wage. Compared to other industrialized nations, the United States’ consumers spend the smallest percentage of their budgets on food. As a society, we have to begin to place more value on our food and agree to pay more for healthy, quality food.
The best advice I could give would be to spend time in the pastures with your animals. Your livestock will tell you what they need if you choose to listen. Watch which forage they choose to eat. Close observation of their behavior, body condition scores and pastures will give you invaluable information.