In keeping with that force-of-nature spirit, Swift Level’s Angus cattle are grass-fed and free of antibiotics. While the beef is not certified organic, Jones said, the farm strives to exceed organic standards – a practice that benefits the environment as well as the consumer.
“Animals that graze or roam freely on grass – when they make manure, that manure breaks down into the grass and it’s actually a soil sequestering; you are eliminating the carbon issue. Whereas animals that stand in a feed lot and eat corn, they make manure that lands on concrete, and that’s where you get the methane gas,” she said.
“They’re ruminants, and they can break down grass, but they can’t break down corn. It creates a gas that begins to suffocate them, which is why they need to be fed massive amounts of antibiotics that everybody is consuming when they buy store-bought meat. So it just compounds this huge issue.”
Because grass is cheaper to produce than corn, grass-finished beef has experienced a rise in popularity in recent years, she said.
“I do a lot of traveling and I’m always observing what people are doing with agriculture. I’ve always believed in what people now call sustainable agriculture, but it’s really just how people used to do it,” she said. “West Virginia is lucky enough to be located in this amazingly lush region with fertile soil and tremendous rainfall, perfect for producing."
West Virginia has good grass and four strong seasons, which makes for a prime growing environment, she said. Land in the state is readily available at an affordable price, and county services are very supportive of agriculture.
“There are a lot of programs that make going into this venture very doable – cost-sharing programs with the NRCS, the FSA and the USDA – those programs are very active in this state.”