Driving down Highway V, one may notice a two-story white house on the right with a short dirt and gravel driveway. On the quiet road, they would never suspect dairy cows roaming the fields behind the house, or hundreds of chickens clucking and chirping a little further down the highway.
Matthew and Rachel Fasnacht own and operate Family Friendly Farm right outside Cape Girardeau, Mo. The Fasnacht’s farm is a little different than most. It all started with at attempt at chicken soup.
“I took a couple chickens from the store, threw them in a pan, threw in the water, probably a few vegetables, seasonings,” Rachel said. “It turned out gray. It tasted like dirt. It was absolutely disgusting. The bones crumbled into shreds. It was entirely inedible.”
Shocked and disappointed, the couple and their family stopped eating chicken and began researching how to raise their own farm, animals and food.
When looking to move to Cape Girardeau from Maryland nine years ago, Rachel looked at farm property, searching for the perfect place for their family to start their own farm, something Matthew wanted to do ever since he was a little boy.
After finding their current home and moving to a property close to Trail of Tears State Park, the Fascachts jumped feet first into starting their dream farm.
“I told [Matthew] right away, that first fall, ‘We’re getting a couple hogs,’” Rachel said. “He’s like, ‘You don’t even know what it takes to grow hogs.’ I’m like, ‘I’ve read some books. We can get a couple hogs.’”
Next came the chickens. They started with 100.
The Fasnachts raise both white and brown chickens. The white chickens are butchered for their meat, and the brown chickens lay eggs.
“We know that we don’t like store chicken, and everything I read in all these books say that this homegrown chicken is so very good,” Rachel said. “I sold 500 [chickens] that first year.”
After beginning their sales at the farmers market in Cape Girardeau, Rachel said they soon realized the seasonal sales weren’t going to stop the chickens from laying their eggs.
“We found it to be fairly limiting for us because we were producing eggs, which are year-round, and we were starting up our milk operation, which is also year-round,” Rachel said. “And there I would be with 100 dozen eggs and no buyers because the farmers market was over.”
The Fasnachts decided to open their own store on their property, allowing the purchase of their goods year-round.
After branching out to make deliveries from Carbondale, Ill. to Florissant, Mo. and all over southeast Missouri, Rachel said they have doubled their operation every two years.
The Fasnachts base their success on the well-known philosophy of “you are what you eat.” More specifically, Rachel and Matthew believe that it all begins with the soil.
“We take the philosophy that if we grow good grass, what will result are animals that are healthy,” Rachel said. “If you don’t have it in the soil, you cannot have it in the grass, which means you can’t get it in the animals.”
No chemical fertilizers are used on the fields at the Family Friendly Farm, and no antibiotics, hormones or growth enhancers are given to the animals.
The animals on the farm are moved to fresh grass regularly, allowing natural manure to fertilize the grounds. Although this process takes longer, it is a long-lasting fertilizing solution compared to the short-term life of fields fertilized with chemicals.
“It takes a longer time to see the effects, but the increase in nutrient content is visible as over the years we watch our fields change,” Rachel said.
After continuing their research, the Fasnachts also decided not to feed their cows grain.
“Once you start feeding them grain, it changes the nutritional components in their body,” Rachel said. “It’s going to decrease their Omega-3s, its going to decrease their vitamin E, it’s going to decrease the vitamin A available in their body. If it’s not in their body they can’t put it in their milk.”
Throughout the nine years the farm has been open, the Fasnacht’s philosophy has only been strengthened as customers continue to visit their store. Rachel described customers claiming they lost weight by switching to Family Friendly Farm’s organic products, endured less joint pain and were sleeping better at night.
“When we started we were just out there for something a little bit better,” Rachel said. “But the more we learn, the more we can see there is to learn.”
As Matthew drove his farm truck back from the field, he discussed the American dream and the thought that it no longer exists. His evidence of the American dream was right up Highway V.
“I’m fully convinced it’s still there,” Matthew said. “But, it’s not handed to you on a silver platter. There’s a lot of sweat involved.”
As Rachel prepares for their goal of pursuing home-delivery in the Cape Girardeau and Jackson area next year, and as Matthew rises at 3:30 a.m. every morning to milk the cows, the Fasnachts will continue working towards their personal American dream.
By Amity Downing, Multimedia Journalist
Summer 2012 Public Information Office Intern