Erek Napora of Cave Ridge Farm agreed to be the subject of this month’s Farmer Focus. Erek and his wife have been farming together part time for six years. Erek’s background is in biology and environmental studies while his wife Megan grew up on a historical farm in Kingsport and has a degree in sustainable agriculture.
They decided to start their own farm after getting married, and their goal was to raise animals with the most efficient inputs possible in a healthy and responsible way. More specifically, animals that don’t need grain are strictly grass-fed while animals that do need grain in their diets are fed with a custom non-GMO feed.
This method of feeding isn’t the only efficiency they employ; they also regularly move their pigs so that they root up the ground and make it prime for planting new crops. Once an area is sufficiently rooted, the pigs are moved and the area is planted with plants that the animals will eat. Brilliant! For that reason and the fact that pigs are such intelligent creatures, pork has been Erek’s favorite thing to produce so far. Pastured pork and Cave Ridge Farm’s Thanksgiving turkeys have been their biggest successes so far. They’ve been selling the turkeys for a few years now, and they tend to have all the turkeys spoken for well before Thanksgiving.
On the other hand, Erek says his biggest challenges so far have been regarding bookkeeping and time management. That was where Field School came into play for him. He says that along with networking, the classes focused on the business aspects of farming were most helpful to him.
Erek says that the biggest ways in which his family’s life has changed since they have begun their farming journey is having a freezer full of meat that they raised. They never even have to walk through the meat department of the grocery store. Knowing what went into the production of their meat and knowing that it was raised ethically and responsibly is invaluable.
As far as the future is concerned, Erek wants his farm to reach the point where he and his wife do not have to work off-farm to support their family. He advises anyone interested in farming to start small: pick something that you enjoy to focus on, then ask other farmers lots and lots of questions, and try to tour farms in person. He says that’s the one thing he’d do differently – he believes he could have benefited from an on-farm internship where he could have gotten more hands-on experience.
When asked about misconceptions surrounding farming, Erek believes that a lot of people don’t realize how much of an intellectual aspect their is to farming — its not just hard physical work! Farming takes physical, mental, and skilled labor. He also wishes that the farming industry in general would refocus away from high quantity/low cost production and toward smaller, more specialized farms. He hopes that the movement toward local food will continue to grow to foster this refocusing.
Thanks to Erek for answering our questions about his life on the farm! Cave Ridge Farm’s website is under construction — we’ll update this post with a link when the website is live.