We sat down with Andrew Crush, owner and farmer at Spring House Farm. Along with his wife, Liz, and children Amelia and Wyatt. They raise pasture-raised and forest-finished pork, grass fed and finished beef, poultry, eggs, lamb, goats and honey in Loudoun County.
How did you get started in farming?
We started this as a hobby farm on 10 acres in Lovettsville, just raising a few animals and experimenting. We liked having meat and produce with flavor and it grew from there. Now we manage 400 acres on four different farms. We get up to 150 cows and 80 pigs during the growing season and back our numbers down for the non-growing season.
How does your process help the environment while producing great protein?
It all starts with the soil quality. If we allow the environment to deteriorate then the grass and the grain won't grow well, which effects the animals and our bottom line. We asked ourselves, how do we improve this without putting a lot of fertilizer on the ground? So we switched to a regenerative agricultural model three years ago to improve the soil, and we work very hard to improve the ground first and constantly analyze the soil and water absorption. (To learn more about Regenerative Agriculture, check out the movie: Kiss The Ground on Netflix.)
We are moving herds constantly depending on our desired affects and weather. Cattle are moved between once a day and 9 times per day in certain scenarios. If we know we are going to have a lot of snow or rain and mud, we move the animals to higher ground so we don't kill the natural grass. The grass stays in place and we have less run-off into streams. We haven't been affected by any drought since we started the program where most other farmers in the area have been. A typical operation doesn't move the herd much and that negatively affects the soil.
We have even installed 50 Tree Swallow houses around the cow pastures. As a migratory bird, they come in the Spring and nest. An adult pair can eat 8,000 flies a day, so we can raise our animals without pesticides or nasty chemicals.
All of our acreage that we manage is in Loudoun County. Our philosophy is that if we take care of the land and manage it properly, you can bring it out of peril quickly, you can raise excellent produce and animals, and it can become profitable for farming. If the only people who stand to make money off of the land are developers, then it is going to be developed.
Do your farming practices improve the quality of your products?
When pork is raised in small areas in mass quantities, they get their vitamin D and nutrients through vitamin packs and genetically modified corn. Our pigs graze on pasture and then forage on the mountain, eating worms, plants, snakes, root balls, grape skins from the vineyards and brewer's mash from breweries. The flavor of pork is in the fat and our method creates a superior dining experience right at home.
To learn more and find information on their farm store in Hamilton and Sterling, visit https://www.springhouse.farm/. You can also find them at the One Loudoun EatLoco market.