Mimicking Nature for Exceptional Eating

By Troy Bishopp

Canastota, NY — Daniel Kline remembers looking at their new land through a panoramic lens and feeling satisfied, until he knelt down to see wide plant spacing, bare ground and nary an earthworm casting. This revelation set in motion a management style that relies on using grazing animals and their natural habits to build soil health and provide quality products to nourish customers.

It’s been a joyful journey of learning for Daniel and Joanna Kline who migrated east from Holmes County, Ohio in 2005 to start Ingallside Meadows Farm, aptly named after their road, Ingalls Corners Road, just south of Canastota in Madison County, New York. “We chose Madison County because of the small farms within our Amish community, the rolling hills, and particularly the Honeoye loam soil and the climate. Because of the lake effect and adjacent Oneida Lake, there aren’t many actual droughts here, not like we had in Ohio, said Kline. It’s ideal for growing quality grass.”

The Klines, along with their now 5 children, saw the potential in direct marketing and wanted to farm their 97 acres of pastureland that paid respect to the land, the animal-ness of their stock and to people’s palates. This goal led to a diversified, “polycultural” farm where they raise 30 grassfed steers, 3000 pastured broilers, 300 turkeys, layer chickens and are rounded out with vegetables and flowers sold at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market and at the farm.

The poultry receive fresh pasture every day from their portable chicken tractors and are fed non-GMO grains and organic minerals. The various species all complement each other on pasture. “The horses eat what the cows don’t, then the chickens follow and scratch everything apart to eliminate fly problems.  Our chickens are healthier out there, do better, just scratching around, and have a really good life, said Kline.  We can’t substitute what they can get in the grass which gives the meat a totally different taste.”

The beef cattle are moved 2 to 4 times daily on grass according to a grazing plan which is critical for finishing. “We graze taller than dairies do and have adopted Grazing Consultant Jim Gerrish’s strategy of take half-leave half,” said Kline. The cattle are wintered once on high quality dry hay since Daniel doesn’t like the variability of fermented forages that might affect gain and taste. They are harvested the second season and processed at Kelley Meats in Taberg, NY.

The steers are bought from other Amish Community farmers who have cow-calf herds that are using bulls from honored lines of Aberdeen Angus representing some of the great cows from Wye, Octoraro, Pinebank, and Shoshone Angus. These grass-based genetics are the result of a relationship with Morgan Hartman of Black Queen Angus Farm, LLC in Berlin, NY and associate partner with Sustainable Genetics, LLC.  Mr. Hartman acknowledged, “As a community, the family farms in Canastota are incredibility forward about regenerative land management and stewardship where sound principles are put into practice for the next generations.  That’s inspiring”. 

“We are witnessing first-hand that great genetics paired with great grass yield quality pounds per day and a quality eating experience. We usually have a rate of gain of 2.5 to 2.8 lbs./head/day, but since our community has been working with Morgan, we have measured 3.9 to 4.8 lbs./head/day.  We never thought this was possible”, emphasized Kline.

When Morgan visited the family in May of 2017, they shared a meal which included steaks from an 18 month old steer. Hartman’s mouth-watering adjectives ranged from incredible to phenomenal.  Being on the National Grassfed Exchange Conference Committee, he immediately said, “We have to share your beef at our conference and inspire guests from all over the country”.  “This was a perfect marriage of soil health, great pasture management and grassfed genetics and is the epitome of what the Grassfed Exchange wants to learn about and share across all boundaries”, said Hartman.

This encounter set in motion the Kline family graciously suppling 2 ½ animals for the Albany  conference which were respectfully slow roasted over an open wood fire by a custom-built rotisserie whose turning chains were run completely by people power. The amazing cooking experience was inspired by traditional Argentinian grilling under the direction of Chef-extraordinaire, Jeremy Stanton and Pit-Master Barry Deffer of Fire Roasted Catering in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

“We were humbled to have the conference guests taste our beef and have a passionate chef appreciate what we do, said Daniel. These relationships are very important to our mission of community-based, local agriculture”.  “We were floored by the eating quality and the quiet humility of the Kline family to mimic nature’s bounty”, said committee members, Clay Nash, John Wood and Dr. Allen Williams.

At home, the Klines have also been busy working with friend and seasoned chef, Alicyn Hart of the new Good Nature Brewery in Hamilton, NY to supply the menu with grassfed hamburger and steaks for special events. “Ingallside Meadows Farm grassfed beef has been very well received by our clientele at the brewery.  Even the most skeptical, including a local grain farmer, who proclaimed his dislike for grassfed beef, before taking a chance on a 16 oz bone-in ribeye, was then a changed man!,” said Hart.

“Customer satisfaction for both quality and ethical reasons is nearly as important to me as retaining a farmer-direct purchasing relationship with Daniel and his family. Because really local sustainable agriculture is about supporting one another and respecting each other’s craftsmanship”, underscored Chef Alicyn.  

Like a harmonious symphony, the Kline family has orchestrated a fertile farm using nature as a guide. “From the beginning, we wanted a connection to the land and to be good stewards of the land, said Daniel. I see the land and animals improving here which leaves it better for the next generation and community. It’s why we farm and honor and respect the Lord’s blessings”.

Published in Country Folks, a Lee Publications weekly agricultural newspaper