Ryan and Desiree Nelson raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) laying hens outdoors on pasture at Nelson Grass Farm in Ogilvie, Minnesota.
The Nelsons purchased 76-acre Nelson Grass Farm in 2011, and began farming in 2012. The property includes lowlands, wooded and brush areas, and about 25 acres of open pastures. Before Ryan and Desiree purchased the farm, it was primarily used for hay production, although the land has an extensive history of diversified farming similar to the pasture-based management the Nelsons cultivate now. The couple managed a sheep farm for six years before starting their own farm, and Desiree had worked with goats and sheep at the University of Minnesota for five years prior to that. “We did not grow up on farms, so we take value in farmer networks and learning from each other,” Desiree explains.
The Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens at Nelson Grass Farm are raised outdoors on pasture, where they can perform natural behaviors like running, dust bathing, pecking and scratching for grubs and seeds. The flock of consists of hearty breeds that do well in Minnesota’s weather extremes, which can fluctuate from hot and humid to very cold temperatures throughout the year. Ryan and Desiree are maintaining a flock of around 500 birds that includes Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Black Australorps, Ameraucanas, Black Sex Links, California Whites and Red Sex Links.
Pasture-based management is the foundation for the farm: “Our hens are healthier because they are on pasture and allowed to express their natural instincts,” says Ryan. “This produces a superior, nutrient-dense egg, and we’re proud to broadcast our sustainable, high-welfare management through our Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW certification!” Research shows that pasture-raised eggs contain three times as much vitamin E, seven times more beta-carotene, and twice the omega-3 fatty acids as industrial eggs.
The Nelsons are passionate about sustainable, high-welfare management practices and a holistic approach to the farm: “We focus on the soil,” Ryan explains. “It all starts there. We utilize the chickens’ natural instincts to scratch up the grasses and get down to the soil. By eating insects and leaving manure behind, they awaken the soil.” Hens are moved often, utilizing movable electric fencing that can set up anywhere on the property. Water, feed and shelter move with the flock. “By moving often, the hens help control the insect population without decimating it,” explains Desiree. “Their intensive, but short disturbance behavior and manure spreading benefits our soils.”
The Nelsons decided to pursue certification through A Greener World to meet consumer demand for sustainable, high welfare farming, and offer their customers greater transparency as they look to expand their operation.
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pasture-raised chicken eggs from Nelson Grass Farm are available direct to the customer, either at the farm by appointment or by delivery to the larger metro areas in Twin Cities, St. Cloud, Brainerd or Duluth. For more information, visit nelsongrassfarm.com or follow Nelson Grass Farm on Facebook.