As we meet more farmers, we encounter quite a few that are also into dog training. Perhaps because we have been focused on livestock farmers in our work to find food sources for pets and working carnivores, we end up spending time with people who have chosen to dedicate their time to raising and taking care of animals. It’s great that some of these farmers are interested in animal training and are often Raw Feeders themselves. Jeff Hanson is a local farmer who loves working with animals, and it shows in his work in his fields, home and shop.
The drive to the Hanson Farm was along a windy two-lane for most of the trip northwest of the Group Pickup in Canton. At the mailbox that matched the address, there was a gate at the foot of the driveway and a place just past for us to pull off of the road. We texted Jeff. Soon he came down in his golf cart and opened the gate for us. He indicated we could drive up, but Aleksandra chose to walk and it sounded good to me, too, so we followed his cart up the drive towards the house. There was a yard along the side of the drive with goats and chickens and another large fenced enclosure with more goats to the right.
The Hanson’s run a Dog Vacay at the property, too. Jeff had a couple of dogs staying with him today. One of them, Milo was happily following us around as we went to the large enclosure opposite the house to learn about the Nubian goats.
While he started with chickens when he first bought the property, his friend brought him an opportunity to take a couple of goats. These first goats were not Nubians, but Jeff enjoyed having them at the farm and decided to learn about raising them for milk production. He settled on Nubians for their temperament and rich milk.
I commented on their large ears. Pendulous, he said. I loved the word yet we soon talked about how goats enjoyed climbing up on top of things, rather than hanging down off of them. Jeff had several small structures in the fields with ramps, platforms, slides and shapes that the animals could interact with. Presently in defiance of the warm sun, many chickens were huddled underneath a teepee shaped wooden structure which looked like a climbing challenge, just before the Hanson’s home.
Meanwhile, behind the goats in the large fenced enclosure was a sizable pen with a dozen, or so, pheasants. I was intrigued with their ringed eyes. Jeff used to have 300 of them, but was largely selling them as slaughtered whole birds to nearby buyers.
Beyond the house was a large multi-use building. Along the side that we walked was a large pen holding young Rhode Island Reds, which Aleksandra correctly called out. As we watched the cockerels and pullets climbing over each other and pecking at stubs on the wall and the fence, I turned around to admire the tall sprouts of lush garlic in the garden Jeff had planted in the fall. Even though I had very recently eaten, I was momentarily hungry thinking of the garlic, and Jeff noticed saying how the elephant garlic works so well as a spread over freshly baked bread.
We rounded the building to see an opening at the rear of it and entered a large workshop. In here were serious wood working tools with compressed air lines, a work bench, and a few machines on the floor that I did not immediately identify or closely inspect as I was impressed by the wooden walls in the center of the room. Clearly these were hurdles that trained dogs would jump over. Two large poles held many slats of wood which could be pulled out or added back to change the height for the animal to hurdle. Jeff also made taller ones which the dog would have to scale by pulling up the wall to get to the top and then over. The craftsmanship was skilled and impressive.
Back on the workbench, Jeff showed us an incubator. Appearing bigger than quail eggs, certainly smaller than chicken eggs, here were growing the next generation of pheasants. I noticed the machine would regulate the temperature and humidity, and Jeff points out how it could be set for the optimal environment along different days of the gestation cycle.
Soon we headed back to the yard along the driveway. Here a coop and other structures chickens huddle within, beyond a second yard with goats and a Great Pyrenees. This young puppy took a particular liking to jumping on me. His puppy-sharp nails writing pinkish glyphs on my body despite my clothing. Of course, he was adorably fluffy and excited. The goats were nearby ready to accept petting attention, too. They were so serene and patient that I could hardly ignore them.
We came away with some goat milk, kefir, and plans to do more with the dog training and agility networks that we know. We’d love to bring Jeff many new connections through the Raw Feeders near Canton and to the northwest. We hope to see his agility club at future Group Pickups!