Father and son Gary and Mike LaFountain were never farmers; they never owned a farm or even worked on a farm. But in 2018, when Gary retired as a quality control specialist, he thought a farm might be a good retirement project for him.
“It would just be something to putz around on,” he explained.
His son, Mike, a U.S. Navy Seabee veteran, decided that being a cattle farmer was something that appealed to him, too, especially with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) encouraging Seabee veterans to go into agriculture.
“It was too intriguing not to try,” Mike said.
Mike attended a four-month certification program at The University of Wisconsin, learning the basics of how to be a farmer. He then enrolled at Michigan State University to study Agri-Business Management through the GI Bill. He will graduate from MSU in December and his goal, he said, is to become a full-time farmer.
The LaFountains purchased 35 acres of land on East Five Point Highway, formerly a cornfield, to start their farm. It was barren of any buildings or equipment needed to start a farm. With Mike’s Seabee experience, and that “can do” attitude, he got busy building barns, sheds, fences, and the other buildings needed. Cows were purchased, with a focus on Holsteins, Black Angus, and Hereford breeds. Angus produces a better marbling in their meat than most breeds, LaFountain said,
Their goal with this farm was to provide exceptional meat through the humane and natural raising of animals. Their cows are pasture-raised, fed only natural forage and grain, and only medicated if they are sick. They do not receive hormones or antibiotics and are locally processed and USDA inspected. They plan to process and sell 24 head of cattle a year.
The LaFountains are especially proud of their regenerative agriculture approach. Being “regenerative” involves rotating the grazing area often to help build up the soil and provide better foraging for the cows. Regenerative agriculture helps promote animal health and create a sustainable product. Chickens are also part of the regenerative agriculture practiced at the farm, as they eat the fly larva that result from the cow’s waste.
“Our focus is on sustainable food made simple,” LaFountain said. “People want to know how their food is raised, are concerned about animal welfare, and want to know if anything has been added to their food.”
They are now in their third year of farming. In addition to their beef, they have free-range meat chickens and laying hens. A new addition for 2021 will be hogs.
The LaFountains sell their meat online and by attending farmers markets in the area, including the Meridian Township Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and the South Lansing Farmers Market on Thursdays. You can also find their meat at the Meijer Capital City Market in downtown Lansing. Their meat is sold by the pound and delivery is available throughout Eaton County and the I-69 corridor towards Coldwater with a $35 minimum order.
Each package of meat includes an information sheet that explains the health benefits, gives a recipe to empower food choices, and provides information about their farm practices.
For more information or to purchase some beef, visit their website at www.lafountainbeef.com. Find them on Facebook @LafountainsAllNaturalBeef, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 517-617-3089.