Why did you begin farming?
I love the land — hiking in West Virginia where I was born and raised, a World War II victory garden, fishing in Canada, and duck and goose hunting on a wheat farm in North Dakota.
Have you always been an eco-farmer, or did you make a change?
Yes. As a career pathologist with a special interest in breast cancer, I wanted the healthiest beef I could produce.
What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?
Paperwork requirements, organic certification, label approval, Whole Foods Market requirements, government requirements.
What do you enjoy most about farming?
Seeing herds of mother cows and calves in every direction on pasture on a beautiful summer day; improving our land.
What is your biggest current challenge?
Expanding production using only our own cow-calf source — this requires adequate pastures, long-winter organic food, shelters and organic bedding.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received about farming?
Maintain the soil and the quality of the pasture/forage crops, and focus on what you do best.
What learning opportunities have helped you become a better farmer?
Seeking advice and keeping an open mind. I use all the same learning techniques I used to become a good medical doctor.
Mountain Meadows Farm
Sudbury, Champlain Valley, Vermont
Farmers: Amiel Cooper, M.D., owner & Brain Kemp, manager
Farm size: 1,800 acres owned, 1,000 leased
Year established: 1996
Number of years farming? 19
Years reading Acres U.S.A.? 5
Products: Organic beef (Angus, Charolais), cow-calf to finishing
Certifications: Organic since inception (1996); NOFA-VOF (Vermont), Whole Foods GAP (Global Animal Partnership), Step Level 4 Rating
What do you see in store for the future of sustainable farming?
Instead of a clash with chemical/ industrial farming, I hope that the two ‘poles’ learn from each other and arrive at a sustainable and productive meeting point.
What is the funniest thing that has happened on your farm?
When we first bought a farm (from a well-known actor/director), we let him keep a few goats with us till his new place was finished. One day my wife looked out, only to see the billy goat stationed on the hood of her Volvo!
What do you enjoy most about living on the land?
Peace of mind.
This article appears in the June 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.