The owner of Rahal Farms, Michael Rahal commits himself to sustainable and holistic farming, as well as to educating the community on such practices. Michael Rahal also specializes in compassionate animal husbandry, and he loves to design, cook, and build.

Starting and maintaining a garden often proves to be an enjoyable and humbling experience. With the freedom to design, plant, and produce, gardeners find the hobby to be greatly rewarding. For people who are looking to learn more about sustainable gardening, the following tips should prove helpful.

1. Reuse various gardening materials, such as rocks for garden design, unused building materials for trellising, and thrift store finds for other requirements.

2. Minimize garden waste by using a compost system or by cooking the unused parts of vegetables in water for a rich broth.

3. Integrate livestock to clean up vines, eat roots, and gain a new source of manure.

4. Use organic, nonhybrid seeds whenever possible.

Michael Rahal operates as the owner of Rahal Farms, where he produces holistic and organic foods, including free-range chicken eggs, artisanal cheeses, and a plethora of vegetables. Additionally, Michael Rahal invites guests to his farm, where they can learn more about sustainable farming and animal husbandry practices.

Many people realize the benefits of eating whole, unprocessed foods; however, some remain confused about the true benefits of eating an organic diet. Described here are several reasons to eat organic.

1. Organic fruits and vegetables most often contain a higher level of antioxidants and phytonutrients than their nonorganic counterparts.

2. People who eat a diet of organic foods reduce their exposure to and intake of harmful pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers.

3. Rivers, soil, and drinking water benefit immensely from organic farming practices, whereas nonorganic farming often depletes the soil and pollutes the environment.

4. Organic milk and meat contain greater amounts of essential fatty acids, which increase good cholesterol.

Michael Rahal is the founder of Rahal Farms, a holistic farm in Fairview, Tennessee. Rahal Farms runs a culinary school that Mr. Rahal leads, and it also has a dairy center for fresh cheese and bread.

Question: How is Rahal Farms’ culinary school different from a traditional culinary school?

Answer: The answer is a very long list. At traditional culinary schools, there is a big focus on the classroom and many of the classes are just like a traditional college course.

Question: What about the financial aspect?

Answer: Rahal Farms does not charge anywhere near what a traditional culinary school charges. If someone is not entirely certain about pursuing the culinary world professionally, the debt is extremely hard to justify. Alternative culinary schools do not have the sort of overhead costs of large organizations, so the prices are much more reasonable, even low enough to suit hobbyists.

Question: Is there a difference in the actual cooking?

Answer: Yes, the cooking taught at Rahal Farms is centered entirely on what is produced at the farm. The idea is not to learn a fancy science trick; it is to focus on fresh, simple food that allows impeccable ingredients to shine.

Free range is a technical term applied by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) to poultry that is permitted to roam freely outside to graze for food. That is, free-range poultry is not confined, caged, or enclosed all the time within a 24-hour period, and therefore the USDA free-range designation applies to meat, eggs, and other food products derived from such free-roaming animals. 

Not to be confused with organic farming methods, free-range animal husbandry is a methodology for farms to raise poultry in more humane conditions, to reduce feed costs through open grazing, to produce more robust livestock, and to use land better ecologically. While the USDA free-range designation is used exclusively for poultry, food producers and marketers frequently misuse the label for other meat, including beef, pork, and mutton.

Michael Rahal is the owner and managing director of Fairview, Tennessee’s Rahal Farms, a leading provider of free-range chicken eggs and meat products, artisanal food, culinary skills courses that use sustainability principles, and organic produce. As a longstanding promoter of sustainable farming practices, Michael Rahal cares for livestock, farming, cheese, and butter production at Rahal Farms, demonstrating deep commitment to the land, nature, local grocers, and all who consume the company’s products.

 

Michael Rahal founded and runs Rahal Farms, a 59-acre sustainable farm in Fairview, Tennessee. Mr. Rahal is a trained designer, but his personal passions led him down a new path. He runs the farm, including its dairy center and culinary school.

Question: What is sustainable farming?

Answer: With sustainable farming, a few important factors are always taken into account: environmental preservation, protection of public health, sustaining vibrant communities, and upholding animal welfare. The concept is not just to take everything possible from the animals, the land, and the community, but it is to create a positive environment where every aspect is beneficial to the others and there are long-term synergies.

Question: Is organic farming the same thing as sustainable farming?

Answer: Although sustainable farming is generally organic, it is very common that organic farming is not sustainable. Considering sustainability factors is much more burdensome than merely meeting organic standards. Consumers who care about sustainability have to do a lot more research to find options they are comfortable with, rather than just going by an organic label.

Sustainability has become an important global consideration since the concept was first aired in the 1980s. More people are asking important questions about sustainability with regard to nutritional choices. Considerations for consumers include where food was grown, whether the quality or consistency was modified or compromised during the production process, and whether sustainable agricultural practices were employed along the way.

Culinary sustainability by definition is making nutritional choices that have the lowest possible impact on the environment, respect ecosystems and biodiversity, make the most of the natural world, are safe to consume, and contain adequate nutrients. In particular, efforts are concentrated on increasing fruit, vegetable, milk, and wholegrain production to meet future demands. The reduction and elimination of potentially harmful chemicals and growth hormones for health and nutritional reasons is also important to the cause.

About the Author: The owner of Rahal Farms, Michael Rahal has successfully combined his passion for design, animal care, sustainability, and cooking to establish a culinary school on the farm. Under the leadership of Michael Rahal, the Kitchen at Rahal Farms is a unique educational concept, teaching culinary skills, sustainability, and food product farming techniques in an idyllic retreat setting.

Question: What is holistic farming?

Answer: Holistic farming is sustainable and emphasizes happy animals. A happy animal is a stress-free animal, and a stress-free cow or chicken will produce better milk or eggs than a caged, distressed animal. Naturally, happy animals can also produce more volume than stressed animals.

Question: Are holistic farms concerned with product volume?

Answer: Although holistic farms still need to operate as businesses, they should not focus narrowly on volume. At Rahal Farms, which makes artisanal cheese, the focus is on finding animals that produce the best-tasting, most nutritious milk, which in turn makes for the best final product. The focus is not on finding cows that produce the highest volume of milk.

Question: Michael Rahal, in addition to the moral arguments, are there any practical arguments for holistic farming?

Answer: Absolutely. The smallest egg from Rahal Farms is more nutritious than the largest jumbo egg at a typical grocery store. Furthermore, free-range eggs typically make a cake rise a quarter of an inch higher than it would with eggs from caged animals.

Michael Rahal, owner and designer of Rahal Farms in Fernvale, Tennessee, will tell you that eggs from his farm-roaming chickens are superior to eggs produced by caged chickens that are fed an all-grain diet. It turns out that Rahal isn’t biased in this claim; studies performed since the 1970s have shown that pasture-raised hens provide eggs with more vitamins and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than their conventionally raised counterparts. Hens that roam a pasture have access to diverse food sources, which go directly into the eggs you consume.

At Rahal Farms, Michael Rahal is careful to rotate his grazing livestock and his ground-scratching chickens to ensure that all of his animals get the right nutrients to keep them healthy. First, he allows different livestock breeds to graze together, knowing that they each eat different plants in the field. Next, the chickens graze in the same area, scattering the natural fertilizer and eating insects full of complex proteins and nutrients. In comparison, hens in cages or even in cage-free environments don’t have access to pasture land, and are typically fed only grains.

The more nutrients an animal consumes, the greater the nutrients they yield in their eggs and milk. If you are trying to increase the nutrients in the whole foods you consume, seek out farm-raised products from farmers such as Michael Rahal.

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