Crew Spotlight: Livestock Manager Nat Ratchen 2


Today I want to give a shout-out to Bellair Livestock Manager Nat Ratchen.

Nat in action! Dumping just-harvested eggplant into the wash basin.

Nat is starting his third season with us, and we couldn’t be luckier.

Nat’s life experience seems to exceed his young age. He began farming in 2013 as a WWOOFER (an organic farm volunteering program) and then worked a season in Florida and then farmed in California for a while before starting work on our farm crew in March 2016. He has also canoed the Mississippi, driven and hitchhiked around the country, and worked for a dog hotel!

Nat’s kind personality and wide life experiences help him relate to anyone he meets. He is a fast favorite of volunteers, his Tuesday CSA pickup or Saturday Market customers, and basically everyone else.

He has a special relationship with animals that, while slightly unorthodox, serves him well in his position here. Some people might get rid of an aggressive rooster; Nat holds it upside down and tells it not-so-nice things as a domination maneuver. The rooster isn’t hurt and doesn’t approach the crew anymore, solving the problem entirely!

As a production farmer, Nat is perfectly able to balance our production needs with special projects, jumping from chicken waterer repair to okra harvest at the drop of the hat. Though animals are a major focus of his, he still functions as an integral member of the vegetable crew and can plant and harvest as fast as just about anyone.

He’s not always on top of things when it comes to photo shoots, but he’s a great squash harvester!

Under Nat’s guidance, we have been working on tightening up and scaling up some of our animal projects. Having someone whose top priority is animal care has been integral in efficiently undertaking this task. Even daily chores go smoother with someone looking for the kinks and working them out.

 

Nat scheduled the time our chickens spent in the PYO field to maintain food safety and also help us spread this pile of compost!

Some of the projects Nat has been focused on over the last couple years have been:

  • Moving our laying hens and meat birds out to our production fields, ensuring a more closed-loop sustainable and affordable fertilization program for our vegetable fields.
  • Purchasing breeding stock and intend to continue expanding our pork production and producing our own piglets. Our sows are named Mama and April and our boar is Boris.
  • We have added a set of afternoon chores as well as a dedicated “mulching day” to stay more on top of coop maintenance and general welfare of our birds.

Our pigs have been eating a lot more of this stuff since Nat has been helping us manage them.

Mama’s first batch of piglets were safely born once we found her!

Outside of work, Nat likes to make homebrewed beer, meade, and ciders, go swimming on the farm, and leave half-empty coffee cups all over the place.

Nat’s steadfast attention to our animals and his superlative work on the farm crew is a great asset to the Bellair team and we are lucky to have him (coffee cups and all). If you see him around, thank him for all his hard work.

This is Nat’s face when he is hollering some nonsense.

And there’s that million-dollar smile we can’t get enough of!

 


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