Public perception sometimes places farmers and environmentalists at odds; however, they dovetail at Canoga Creek Farm & Conservancy in Seneca Falls, NY, where Keith Tidball and his wife, Mo Tidball, care for the animals they raise as well as the land that also supports wildlife.
Raising natural, pastured beef, sheep, turkey and pigs, the Tidballs work to create sustainable agricultural systems that support biodiversity.
Perched on the edge of the Cayuga Lake watershed, the Tidballs must practice careful land management of their nearly 180 acres on which they grow grass and hay for their animals. They raise 50 beef cattle, six pigs, 20 heritage breed turkeys, four registered Wiltshire horn heritage sheep and, for their own egg needs, 20 chickens.
Intensive rotational grazing helps the animals get fresh, nutritious pasture while keeping the grasses healthy. During the winter, it’s hay and baleage.
Beef herd manager Jeff Rosenkrans manages the pasture, hay and beef side of the farm. Other than that, the couple, along with their children, takes care of the farm.
Mo works full-time for Cornell Cooperative Extension Seneca County as a human nutritionist. She had never farmed until she and Keith purchased the farm 15 years ago.
“I’d always wanted horses and that was what brought us to want acreage,” she said. “I got into farming because I wanted to know where my food comes from.”
Now she has her horses and much more, too. Since the farm had a hog barn, they acquired hogs. They followed suit with the chicken coop and turkey coop, but decided to make the dairy barn into a horse barn. Their neighbor suggested beef cattle, since they’re less labor intensive than dairy.
Keith works as assistant director for Cornell Cooperative Extension Disaster Education Network. He’s involved with many conservation efforts and, according to Mo, likes large-scale projects. Many involve working with partnerships to restore grasslands and habitats with native flowers and plants.
“His passion is working the landscape into a social/ecological environment that works for everyone, including the wildlife,” Mo said.
The couple doesn’t see deer as competitive with their animals.
“As long as our pastures and hedgerows and woodlots are healthy, there’s enough room and vegetation for all the animals to live well here,” Mo said. “If someone’s growing apples or grapes where animals can destroy their crop, it’s a different story.”
They see conscientious hunting as one means of helping manage the deer population.
As the farm is on the Cayuga Lake watershed, manure management represents a large conservation concern.
“We have a well-thought-out manure system,” Mo said. “We don’t have animals on that side of the lake. Being right on a lake, water quality is a big concern.”
She wants more farmers to become better land stewards by using the various resources and grants available to help them follow good agricultural practices.
“That will help with ecology in the long run,” Mo said. “It also requires the public to be aware of sustainable agriculture in the long run. They will demand more of these things from responsible farmers.”
The Tidballs sell most of their meat by word-of-mouth advertising. They send out the animals for processing and sell the finished meat right off the farm, except for pork, which they sell at Schrader’s Farm and Meat Market in Romulus.
For more information visit www.canogafarms.com.