Earlier last fall I had the opportunity to sit down with the fellas behind Two Brothers Butcher Shoppe in North Market and learn more about what they do, and why love it. As we were talking, I asked them who else in town I should talk too, and two names came up.
Charlie Payne and Jaime Anderson.
For those of you either not in Columbus, or not involved in the Columbus Restaurant scene, Charlie Payne and Jaime Anderson are famers here in the Columbus area, both approaching farming with the mindset of sustainability. And happy animals. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
Charlie invited me up to his farm to check it out, meet the animals (because of course, in my head, all farms operate like the one in Charlotte’s Web), and see what they’re up to up at Covey Rise Farms.
Charlie initially broached the idea of my coming up in the spring, when the lambs have just been born so that I can see the farm in all its spring time beauty. I accepted the offer, and in my Kate way, suggested that I come up not only in the spring, but now as well, and then again in the fall and then again around Thanksgiving, to truly see, and bring to you, my readers, the seasons of the farm.Covey Rise Farms & Charlie Payne are doing amazing things in Ohio. #coveyrisefarms #Ohio… Click To Tweet
The day that I drove up to Covey Rise Farms the January sun was struggling to peak through the high clouds, and the wind was whipping across the flat Ohio landscape. The river was mostly frozen over, and bare branches danced in the wind.
The warmth of the farmhouse was incredibly welcoming following the bite from the wind. I should note that I’m kind of a wuss when it comes to wind and flat land. This is a whole different kind of cold than I’ve ever been around. Even living in the mountains in Utah there wasn’t cold like this. (For real, the cold here in Ohio is spectacular. I’m learning all about what wind chill factor really means. Portland, you’ve got nothin’ on this.) We sat down at the big wooden table and started talking.
Charlie grew up in rural Missouri with his parents. His mother is a nurse and his father is a veterinarian who did his residency at Virginia Tech and then taught at the University of Missouri.
Farming is unique. You only have 30 chances to do it better, to make improvements. ” – Charlie
Growing up the Payne family sat down together every night to dinner, and Charlie learned how to cook from his mom, and is himself an accomplished chef. His favorite meal to make is a a SE Virginian take on Brunswick Stew which he has adapted to chicken. It’s soupy, hearty, and delicious with cornbread.
Farming is not something that he has been born into, like most farmers in Ohio, but something that he’s known he would do all along. (To be clear, when I say that farming and raising animals is his blood, Charlie is four generations removed from the farmers in his family, so while I speak of him starting from scratch, I mean he has not inherited a family farm that is already in place.).
A friend introduced Charlie to Joel Salatins books (Salatin is considered to be the father of the pasture raised movement, you can find his books here) and Charlie was hooked.
Two years ago, the land that Covey Rise sits on came up for sale and Charlie bought it, intending to “raise a few sheep”.
After starting with 3 lambs, the decision to add laying hens was added, and then broiler chickens.
Charlie’s lambs sell out, and they sell out fast. By August of 2016, 2017’s lambs were completely spoken for, and the waiting list had been started.
As we segued into what makes Charlies (and Joel Salatin’s) method of farming innovative, he informed me that he’s actually a grass farmer, who happens to also raise sheep & chickens. The chicken’s pens are moved each day on a rotation that allows for the grass to regrow for 21 days before a pen is moved back onto that same patch, and the sheep are moved from paddock to paddock each day as well.
Orchestrating all of it is similar to a giant game of Tetris.
He, like Terry McIntyre of Stone Griffon, (read more about him here), listens to his intuition as much as anything else. Farming, be it grapes on the vineyard, or livestock here at Covey Rise, is as much an art as it is a science.
Covey Rise uses only non-GMO feed, and takes great care in making sure that everything done on the farm is sustainable in the long run. Doing so produces natural meat, the way that it was intended to be.
Most of all, Charlie raises happy animals.
Honey bees are the newest addition to Covey Rise, which were added as a hobby, figuring that they’d dip a toe in, and see where it goes. So far, it’s following the footsteps of the sheep & chicken, and it’s going very well.
I asked Charlie what his favorite part of it all is, and the answer is as follows :: “Being outside. It’s hard work, and it feels good. It’s peaceful. Well, that and sharing good quality food.”
And, because building a successful farm from the ground up isn’t enough, Charlie has maintained his ‘day job’ working full time for a national conservation organization.