PHOTO: Homestead Harvest
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February 20, 2020

Joshua C. Ernst is a seventh generation family farmer at Ernst Grain and Livestock in Clear Spring, Maryland.

He began selling non-GMO feeds in 2014 after spotting a small but growing demand for higher-quality farm feeds. Four years later, Ernst launched Homestead Harvest, a specialty feed venture.

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Homestead Harvest packs its chicken, pig, cow, goat and sheep blends with natural supplements and key essential oils. Products also contain ingredients like kelp and black oil sunflowers.

We spoke to Ernst about the benefits of high-quality feeds and the importance of sustainable practices. We also discuss why cayenne pepper is great for chickens.


The Roots Of Homestead Harvest

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Kim and I are so thankful this Thanksgiving. Homestead Harvest was just a dream of mine a year ago and you all have helped to make it a reality. From bagging the feeds to going to promotional events, we put all that we have into these feeds. I have a lot of pride in seeing all the folks purchase our feeds, share our social media posts, and support my family’s business. Never did I think we would be selling our feeds in the amount of locations we are today. We are so thankful for our customers, the awesome dealers we have been able to work with, and all of the opportunities we have been given this year. This thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. God has truly blessed our family. #thankfulandblessed #livingthedream #homesteadharvest

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“We are farmers ourselves and have had hogs on our farm since the early 1900s,” explains Ernst, when asked about how his interest in farm feed came about.

“We had the equipment to make feed just for our own animals. We’re grain farmers as well, so we’d grow our grain, process it and then feed it.”

Much of the market for Ernst Grain and Livestock’s pigs comes from buyers at farmers markets who are searching for pasture-fed, non-GMO pork.

“When customers started asking us for non-GMO-fed hogs, we switched over to supply that demand,” says Ernst. “We saw there’s a demand for non-GMO feeds. It all started from there.”

Farm Feed Or Pet Food?

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Our newest feed: Non-GMO Quail Layer! . . This is a 26% protein, ground layer feed with extra calcium designed specifically for laying quail. Just like all of our Homestead Harvest feeds, it is complete with: 🔅Vitamins & Minerals 🔅Essential Oils 🔅Probiotics 🔅Herbs 🔅Kelp 🔅Omega 3’s . . Quail are known for healthier eggs, smaller living spaces, and being a quieter bird. Many Game Bird feeds have extra protein, but not enough calcium. We wanted to provide a premium feed for you to raise quail knowing that they are getting a diet specific to their needs. Click the link in our bio to place a online or to find a dealer near you. . Shoutout 🗣to @ajfarmsquail for all of their help in developing this feed. . #quail #courtnixquail #gamebird #quailfeed #homesteading #quaileggs #quailsofinstagram

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Ernst says that he often tells customers “we don’t make feed—we make pet food.”

He adds that many feeds on the market are packed with by-products due to “the design of big-ag where cost is everything to make a profit.”

This has also created a comfortable niche for Homestead Harvest: “There isn’t as big of a demand for high-quality feed, but, for a farmer like me, it’s kinda everything.”

Chickens Love Cayenne Pepper

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Did you know all of our chicken feeds are made with cayenne pepper? 🌶🌶🌶 . . This herb is known for increasing laying production, especially in the colder winter months. The old timers would say to throw a little bit of cayenne pepper in the feed to warm up your birds. There has been research completed resulting in improved growth rates in broiler chickens when this is added to the feed. It is thought to be an antioxidant improving the performance of digestive tract. . . While obviously it is not a cure all, it plays a small part in maintaining a healthy flock. The key to good nutrition is not just one magic ingredient, but a combination of many small practices that add up to a healthy diet in the end. This is why we add multiple health supplements to our mixes aiming to make the best feeds around! . . #healthyflock #healthyfeed #homesteadharvest #premiumfeeds #chickenfeed #nongmo #backyardchickens #chickensofinstagram

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If you browse through Homestead Harvest’s feeds, you might be surprised to see that cayenne pepper is added to their chicken feeds.

It’s an addition that came about after Ernst was speaking to a customer who was a chef. “She kept requesting I add it to the feed,” he says.

“I did some research into it and discovered that broilers fed cayenne pepper would grow more effectively and that it helps increase laying rate.

“According to the feed supplement company I work with, cayenne pepper also has anti-inflammatory, anti-allergen, anti-fungal and anti-irritant properties. And it is also a source of vitamins.”

Goats And Black Oil Sunflowers

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Got goats? Then you need our goat feed! This blend of Non-GMO grains is fortified with minerals meeting all of the daily requirements for goats including their copper needs. We even use premium grains like black oil sunflowers to keep the coats in optimum condition. And like all of our Homestead Harvest feeds, we add essential oils, herbs, kelp, probiotics, and omega 3’s. Maybe our feeds should just be called pet food? We go above and beyond the requirements of animal feeds because we know we are making feed for your pets. #homesteadharvestisbetter #goatsarepetstoo . Shoutout to @geraghtys.micro.farm for the goat pic. 👌🙌 Your photos are always awesome! Unfortunately our farm is goatless, even though @kternst3 has plans of changing that someday. 😂🐐 . . #goats #dairygoats #nigeriandwarfs #goatlife #goatsarelife#chickens #chickensofinstagram #hens #nongmo #sustainable #homegrown #homestead #knowyourfood #homesteading #homesteadlife #marylandchicken #virginiahomestead #virginiachickens #fresheggs #offgrid #offgridhomestead #farmfresh #farmfresheggs

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A key ingredient in Homestead Harvest’s goat feed is black oil sunflowers. Again, this came about after Ernst reacted to a customer demand for it.

“Black oil sunflowers help make the goat’s coat shiny,” he says. “I often have customers tell me what they want. And I start working with them to get feedback.”

The Benefits Of Oregano In Feed

Ernst says that oregano is a key ingredient in many of his feeds.

“That’s one of the main essential oils that are added to feed,” he explains, before mentioning that university research has shown “it’s effective and increases growth rates.”

Keeping Feed Sustainable to Stay Profitable

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Another fresh batch of our whole grain layer blend has been mixed and bagged. This is the best layer feed around and while we may be slightly biased, we do source premium ingredients to make this feed. It’s made with Non-GMO grains, oyster shells, poultry minerals/vitamins, probiotics, essential oils, herbs, kelp, diatomaceous earth, and linseed oil (a source of omega’s.) We even add supplemental niacin to insure this feed is fortified for ducks in addition to chickens. . . It’s our goal to make only the best feeds so you can keep your animals in optimum health. Homestead Harvest Feeds are a step above the rest. 🔆🌿🐓 . . . #chickenfeed #nongmofeed #homesteadersofamerica #freerange #familyfarm #pasturedchickens #homesteadlife #pasturedeggs #nongmograin #marylandfarms #familyfarm #pigfeed #goatfeed #sheepfeed #NonGMO #naturalfood #nature #organic #freerange #organicfeed #sustainable #sustainablefarms #nongmograin #knowyourfarmer #knowyourfood #localgrown #essentialoils #homesteadharvest

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The history of Ernst Grain and Livestock involves a commitment to sustainable practices. The farm was the first in Maryland to be awarded Certified Agricultural Conservation Stewardship status in 2010.

“We’ve found that when you take care of the soil and try to be more sustainable, it’s also good for our farm from a profitability standpoint,” explains Ernst. “When the soil is healthier, you get more crops and there’s more profit margin. We look at it that way, too.”

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One thought on “Homestead Harvest Makes Sustainable Specialty Feed

  1. Also the cayenne pepper birds can’t taste the spicy …. but the mice or rats can and won’t get into your feed and in turn keeping your feed safer and healthier

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