Tyler and Lindsay Justice on their Vermont farm, with their two boys Jack and Sam.
Tyler Justice, 26, grew up in a northwest Ohio town with its share of factory farms. When he visited these operations, he saw the animals’ poor living conditions, and he was concerned. He knew the animals ate food that made them sick, and they were subjected to pesticides, herbicides, and other harmful chemicals.
“Just seeing the cattle feedlots or a poultry barn,” he said. “You just wonder if there is a better way, both for the animals’ welfare and also for the product at the end, with the consumer.”
So, together with his wife, Lindsey, 29, he bought 25 chickens and raised them the right way, on pasture with plenty of sunshine and fresh air and grubs and grasses to eat. Soon he was learning the ins and outs of grass feeding and pasture raising on their small Southern Michigan farm. He quit his day job and decided to farm full time. That was four years ago.
They’re now wrapping up their first summer raising chickens and pigs on a 146-acre farm in Charleston, Vermont, which they purchased in February. “The Northeast Kingdom in Vermont was exactly what we were looking for,” Tyler said. “We only saw the property in the dead of winter, actually, and we closed on it this February.”
The Justices are young and idealistic, and that has helped them along the way. But they’ve also had a lot to learn on their own, and they put a lot of hard work in getting where they are now. “This broke. That broke,” Tyler said. “How you set up a fence so the pigs don’t get out, I mean everything.”
Establishing themselves in a farm-friendly area in Vermont has been helpful though, especially since there are plenty of like-minded agriculturists willing to help out when a tractor gets stuck in the mud. “It’s definitely is a humbling job. I learned that you can’t be afraid to ask for help,” Tyler said. “You can’t be afraid to be wrong. But once you do get it and things work, it’s the greatest feeling, ever.”
The Justices have begun breeding 25 or so sows. They are in the process of building their barns out and creating a safe and comfortable habitation space for their animals, with plenty of room to roam in their pastures and woodlands. They are growing their operation and finding success and, in a big way, they have Walden members like you to thank.
“I really hope that people understand how much Walden really does help small farm or the family farm,” Tyler said. “It’s hard for me to get my products to New York City, right? But being able to link up with other farmers, being able to link up with Walden, who have a lot of resources and a lot of knowledge. It just makes it all possible.”
For now, they are taking each day and each new challenge in the Northeast Kingdom as it comes. “Just last night we had a black bear break into one of our chicken tractors, that was a problem we never had in southern Michigan,” Tyler laughed. “It’s been a journey, but it’s been great.”