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Natural Awakenings SW PA, Greater Pittsburgh

Ethical Farming Includes Education and Cooperation

Jul 01, 2020 10:21AM ● By Michelle Dalnoky

The concept behind the Ethical Farming Fund, founded by Hannah Ridge and Tim Trout in 2013, was to help local farmers improve the welfare of the livestock on their farms. Today, that is just one of their programs alongside another objective of connecting residents of southwestern Pennsylvania to sources of humanely raised meat, eggs and dairy.


Ridge says,Our mission is to strengthen western Pennsylvania's local food network by promoting sustainable, high-welfare animal farming practices and by supporting local, ethical animal farmers. We mainly serve the stakeholders on each end of the food chain: the producers (pasture-based farms) and the consumers of meat, eggs and dairy. We have also worked with chefs and restaurants looking to forge direct relationships with local farms.”


They are currently awarding their third Farmraiser Grant to Savage Mountain Farm, in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. “They are building mobile farrowing huts to allow the mama pigs and their piglets to have safe shelter on pasture with the $1,000, something enjoyed by a relatively small number of pigs in the U.S.,” boasts Ridge.


She notes, “We also have a growing catalog of virtual farm tours which give you an opportunity to see for yourself how local farmers raise their animals. Consumer education was a big part of this program, and we created a number of evergreen resources for consumers, including original infographics and short videos.”


The board of directors comprises Ridge, Trout and two volunteers. They welcome the opportunity to collaborate with sponsors that recognizes the many benefits of sustainable animal agriculture, such as increasing regional food sovereignty, saving natural ecosystems from monocultures, minimizing the impacts of climate change through carbon sequestration on pasture and creating a more humane food system.


Ridge has spoken at Farm To Table Conferences for several years and at University of Pittsburgh Food Days. Now they engage Pittsburghers virtually through their website. “We also offer anyone the opportunity to help improve animal welfare through the Farming With Love program, which raises funds for the Farmraiser Grant through T-shirts and tote bags,” says Ridge.


“We envision a world without factory farms. In our approach to this, rather than focusing on the negative aspects of industrial agriculture, we present our audience with the humane alternative that is available right in our back yard. By connecting residents of southwestern Pennsylvania to local farms, we can build a local food system that prioritizes animal welfare organically and has long-lasting impact. We also focus a lot on consumer education through our blog and other resources on our website,” shares Ridge. “Through this, we want to teach consumers to navigate an increasingly opaque food market.”


In the coming years, one of their main challenges lies in getting that food to people without weakening the business models of farmers, so some of the opportunities with the most significant impact are logistical ones. “We are always adding to our virtual farm tours and our database of farms that meet our standards. As far as the database, we are working on presenting this information in the most user-friendly way possible so that consumers can find farms that best meet their needs and hopefully become lifelong customers,” advises Ridge.


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