It is impossible to imagine a digital platform, which aims at promoting mindful eating in South Africa without a man who is playing a crucial role in establishing biodynamic agriculture in South Africa. I feel honored to be invited to meet Farmer Angus Macintosh today, who is taking me for a Real Food Safari and allows me a peek behind his pasture-reared egg and grass-fed beef production.
Meet your clean meat connection!
Dust is blowing up, a guy wearing earphones is pushing the passenger door open leaning over his seat and asking me to jump in. So is this what a modern farmer today looks like? I ask myself. Barefoot with a smartphone, from which he navigates the irrigation system on his pastures, delegating tasks to his employees across the farm using a headset.
After working as a well-paid stockbroker for Goldmann Sachs in London, he came to South Africa to build clay houses. That was when he read “The Omnivores dilemma” written by bestselling author Michael Pollan. After the last page, he had a revelation and decided to become a farmer. Hereby, ethical farming and animal welfare was crucial for the celebrated bare-foot farmer, who’s known to be a no bullshit kinda guy. However, ethics are only one side of the coin for him, as his farming methods are far more holistic. When he embarked on his journey 7 years ago, he was inspired by the biodynamic approach to agriculture. One person especially inspired him – lecturer, author and farmer Joel Salatin, who owns Polyface, “a family owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm and international outreach” in the US. Angus’ vision was to build a farming operation, which would function as a redemption business, by focusing on restoring and giving back to nature, while nurturing a personal relationship with customers and restaurants.
There’s more than one way to raise livestock
Biodynamic farming is considered the oldest organised agricultural western movement, founded by Rudolf Steiner in the early 20th century and constitutes a type of organic farming, which emphasises the relationship between soil, plants and animals in one unified system. The goal is to produce nutritious food in a way that gives back to nature to an extent that is regenerative for our environment. By pursuing this very goal, Angus has built a 100% self-sustaining farming operation in Stellenbosch, where no synthetic pesticides, fertilisers, hormones, antibiotics or genetically engineered grains to feed animals, are needed. He has a lease-agreement with Spier, who have first rights to his meat.
All Farmer Angus products, such as pasture-reared eggs and grass-fed beef are all produced by adhering to natural rhythms and cycles. Whereas industrial farming leads to soil erosion where precious topsoil is lost, biodynamic agriculture builds topsoil. To accomplish this goal, you need to have a diversified farm and “a lot of animals in a small place for a short period of time” he says. Eighteen different varieties of grasses and legumes have been planted across pastures providing a vast variety of valuable nutrients for cows and chickens. His cattle is moved twice a day, hopping from one lush pasture to the next, while fertilising the ground naturally by spreading their dung. The cows only find themselves back at their original pasture after 6 weeks, although only a circle of 4 weeks would suffice. Angus prefers to give his pastures a little bit of an extra breather to allow the vegetation to fully recover and regenerate. These rotational grazing spectacles can be viewed daily at 11:30am and 4pm. Contact Angus Mcintosh here directly for any questions.
Fifteen mobile hen houses, better known as eggmobiles, are set up across the farm, allowing chickens to roam freely. As they are moved daily, it is ensured that there´s always a green pasture for all the chickens available to whoop it up like there is no tomorrow. Thanks to Farmer Angus, this amazing concept, first invented by Joel Salatin has been introduced to South Africa and shared with other farmers. Anyone who´s interested in replicating this amazing concept should feel free to reach out to Farmer Angus, who´s willing to share his knowledge about the concept of Eggmobiles and has compiled a vast amount of information about this business model and much more here. Mobile hen houses are a perfectly eco-friendly way to maintain that there´s always fresh feed available and fertilizing manure distributed across the land. Farmer Angus believes that “You choose the life of the hen by virtue of the egg that you buy”. We couldn´t agree more and applaud Angus Mcintosh for educating South African consumers especially about the ongoing free-range labeling hoax on his blog. If it were up to him, conventional free-range eggs in South Africa would be labeled barn-raised instead. Many free-range egg operations cut their hens beaks as standard with battery chickens, which are layered above each other in up to 8 levels (in the Western Cape), constantly exposed to their feces. If you´d like to learn more about the mislabeling of free-range eggs in South Africa, have a look at an article we wrote recently here.
Another perfect example how Farmer Angus works in alliance with nature are the many shelter-belts which have been planted all around the farm, bringing a biological balance. Over 2 million indigenous and endemic trees and shrubs have been propagated for that purpose at the farm for the past 5 years under supervision of his wife. Not only birds, bees and other insects are major fans of this method, shelter-belts also serve as a natural seed bank, windbreaker; adding nutrients to the soil, which in turn aids pasture vegetation, fertility and animal health. These are one of many factors, which lead to an exceptional quality in Farmer Angus products.
Inspired by Pat Colby´s natural methods for taking care of farm soil and livestock, Farmer Angus makes use of dehydrated sea minerals and natural home-made probiotics to tackle paracides and mineral deficiency in soil, a general challenge in agriculture. For this purpose, he has set up a mineral wagon, providing his cattle a “free choice lick” of Khoisan salt, bokashi, kelp and diatomaceous earth, which also protects the chickens from bugs as a natural insecticide. According to Farmer Angus, conventional agronomists or technical advisers of companies, who are selling commercial minerals, promote a mechanical distribution with tractors. The natural variation however does firstly not compact the soil and is secondly more cost effective as it safes expensive labor. The cows absorb whatever minerals they need. The the rest, approximately 70%, simply travels across the pastures through the backside.
Now, critics may denunciate biodynamic agriculture as pseudo-science or label it contemptuously as “spiritual farming” in the mainstream media, however Farmer Angus invites all doubters to join him for a Real Food Safari (book one here) to witness the indisputable success and positive effect on the environment for themselves. He has been documenting the impact his farming methods has had on the fertility of the land for the past seven years. The astonishing healing effects on the environment can be witnessed on his blog in form of many scientific explanations, pictures and videos, here.
After seven years of successfully applying biodynamic farming methods, Farmer Angus refers to biodynamics as “a think-local farming system that is cost-effective, produces high quality food, is inherently sustainable, and works.”
Beef that reverses climate change?
The fact that industrial beef production contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide has been widely discussed, but unfortunately not adequately addressed. Conventional agriculture has become the most destructive threat to our planet and is controlled by a handful of very powerful corporations. Up until today, the benefits of biodynamic agriculture as demonstrated by many scientists, journalists and activists have been sternly undermined. The elephant in the room is obviously food security and whether the world can be fed organically. Farmer Angus, however stays positive and has the hope that industrial farming will expose itself sooner or later and believes that conventional farming will eventually turn into unconventional farming. Proving his point by educating people regularly on his blog is not enough for him. He and Credible Carbon have decided to take their environmental convictions further by engaging in a project, which aims at finding ways of producing and distributing adequate quantities of healthy food at affordable prices without damaging the environment. Hereby, a strategy has been developed in which carbon sequestration is monitored and carbon credits are generated, whereby 50% of the net income generated by sales of carbon credits goes directly to the employed South African farm workers. According to an independently conducted audit executed by C4 Ecco Solutions, the project has “a discernable impact on soil carbon sequestration” as stated in their 2013 audit.
What does 2016 hold in store for Farmer Angus?
“In 2016, we plan to build an abattoir on the farm. Also a wine cellar where the Spier farm wines can be nursed into wine. I am trying to persuade the owners to invest in more irrigation so that we can speed up the healing of the land with more livestock. I am finally going to do an experiment with outdoor pigs.”
Support Farmer Angus in his biodynamic quest for South Africa
Angus Mcintosh has reached out to the Department of Agriculture to apply for a funded apprenticeship on his farm, in which he sees himself training apprentices and the government providing an opportunity to learn a skill in return. As he receives weekly requests from someone wanting to do an apprenticeship on his farm he urges the Department of Agriculture to respond to it’s citizens request for biodynamic agriculture. Currently, two apprentices are under his wings. Both are paid and provided accommodation for working a weekend a month in lieu of rental. The working hours are a full day, just like everybody else who works on the farm. There’s not only an increasing demand for food from regenerative agriculture but also more and more people wanting to become farmers although current developments in agriculture don’t seem to make the journey for self-sustaining farmers particularly easy. If you would like to support Farmer Angus in his mission, or in case you are interested in doing an apprenticeship at his farm, please contact him here.
Learn a thing or two about real food
His blog is definitely worth a visit for everyone who cares about food in relation to our environment. Here, the barefoot food champion not only educates readers about diverse
health and environmental issues, such as the dangers of addictive sugar or the impact of
toxic pesticides used in our country but also animal ethics. He provides explanations about the importance of nutrients and bacteria in soil and is not too shy to address touchy subjects such as false food labeling and unfair food pricing. As part of a group he presented a seminar held at Spier, called As We Eat, in which he discussed publicly the health risks of sugar.
Also, keep your eyes open for his weekly column in the Longevity Magazine.
Farmer Angus said something interesting on his blog, which impressed me and is quite rare among barefoot carnivore farmers: “Vegans, vegetarians , raw foodists and grass-fed beef eaters are all on one side. The side opposite chemical, industrial, processed, corporatised, sweetened, pasteurised, homogenised, factory farmed and GMO “food”.”