By Richard S. Gubbe
Farmer John Nadig has broken away from the herd. He’s free, and a danger to conventional thinking. He’s a steward of his land, someone who can raise cows, chickens, hogs, sheep and turkeys harmoniously with the earth.
While as little as 1 percent of Illinois corn goes to feed people, Nadig has a system that provides the use of grass and healthy diets, not corn. His care of each animal assures their well-being while on the planet. He is a steward of his land, not a ravager.
A vegetarian he is not. But green stuff is part of the diet he feeds his animals, not the corn that grows across the street from his current DeKalb location.
Nadig, in his mid-30s with a house full of kids and wife Charlotte, raises his animals on a small plot of land, has egg-producing hens and owns one milk-producing cow for raw milk, all providing goods for purchase and for family consumption.
On merely 6-1/2 acres, he houses all but the cattle raised for beef. They stay on grass-only fields nearby that are full of herbs, lush grasses and fresh water, their diets supplemented with probiotics, kelp and salt. He alternates their fields of travel constantly to ensure replenishment of the grasses throughout the leased field northeast of DeKalb. Weeds are few and far between as the strength of the grasses and herbs limits weed growth without the use of herbicides.
“The more my dad sprayed for thistle, the harder they came back,” Nadig says about letting grass dominate the weeds. His methods of farming resemble nothing of his father’s blueprint.
Back on his other property, Nadig rotates his chickens around the farm in housing on wheels. Chickens eat the grass and bugs, lay chicken poop that is used to grow grass for the other animals, and life goes on and on in a cycle. No inoculations, no antibiotics, only healthy supplements, fresh hay, sunshine and clean water. Chicken manure is often found in organic fertilizer. But Nadig doesn’t have to buy any.
“The chickens don’t compete with the hogs for resources,” Nadig says. “Movement is the key, the key to keeping them away from their own pathogens. We’re following God’s pattern for nature.”
Nadig’s chickens grow to be 5 pounds of carcass weight. His sides of beef and whole hogs are above average for organics, and his turkeys grow to 20 pounds.
“I have no desire to be certified organic,” he says in full support of government staying off the farm. But he does go out of his way, out of the state, to find the proper blood lines for beef and pork.
Nadig has been on this slab of land since 2007. The land his house sits on is just a stone’s throw from suburbia — a neighborhood of affluent homes borders his property. He’s going to have to move because of ordinances against growing livestock. Yet, finding quality land for livestock in an organic setting is growing more difficult.
“We’ll be doing this somewhere,” he promised.
Even though Nadig knows supply could never keep up with demand if organics really took off, he blames complacency for its lack of popularity.
“People are addicted to comfort and convenience,” he says. “They can find it all at Wal-Mart. But when you go to Wal-Mart, you’re going to Mons-anto. We’re the people who have laid down our rights.”
Nadig has picked up the organic torch and left his father’s way of feed-lot farming behind.
“We farm in such a way that is healthy for the land, healthy for the animals, healthy for our family,” he said.
“Our farming venture is intimately connected to our desire to provide healthy, chemical-free food to our children and practice what we consider to be godly stewardship over the land and animals under our care,” Nadig added. “Our farm is about promoting health, building the soil, reducing stress, fostering biodiversity, working with the seasons and the environment where we live, providing locally raised, healthy real food, and providing our animals with a humane natural living environment and natural whole foods.
“When you add in the bonus of getting to know our customers and building community,” Nadig said, “farming becomes a beautiful lifestyle, just as it is supposed to be.”
Richard Gubbe is an award-winning journalist, public relations specialist and Reiki Master Teacher. He is a long-time Rockford resident who has taught preventive health, visualization and Reiki at Rock Valley College since 2003.