Valley Spirit Farm sits just North of Louisville, Kentucky. It’s owned and operated by Caleb Fiechter and Joseph Monroe. These two college friends turned business partners (along with their wives) grow vegetables and culinary mushrooms, and sell grass-fed beef and pastured pork. They’re also a unique customer of Victory Hemp’s: using hemp hulls, a by-product created from de-hulling our whole hemp seeds into shelled hemp seeds, and incorporating them into their farming operations.
We recently sat down with Caleb (for a socially-distant video call) to learn more about their mission, their farm, and why teaming up with Victory Hemp has been mutually beneficial.
Tell us about your farm and how you got into farming.
I grew up on a farm in Northeast Indiana. In college I got a cocktail of humanities degrees and that’s when I met Joseph. Midway through college we realized that farming might be something we want to do. We moved to this part of Kentucky and started this farm in the summer of 2015.
We have a 115-acre farm that we operate like a CSA, and also sell at the farmers’ market. We graze black Angus cattle, raise a multitude of pastured pigs, and grow a variety of produce. We focus on salad greens, carrots, and beets. We grow a lot of tomatoes. Our market garden is diversified because we’re a CSA and we want to keep the boxes different each week. We don’t grow a lot of melons and squash or beans because they require a lot of other space.
You also grow culinary mushrooms.
I started growing mushrooms about 6 years ago. In our local food space, we noticed there was a lack of vegan-friendly options and not a lot of culinary mushrooms. We primarily cultivate oyster mushrooms—pink, blue, yellow, and snow oysters—and a few that aren’t oyster mushrooms like Lion’s Mane, Chestnut, and King Trumpets. We aim to produce 100 pounds a week.
How are you using hemp in your farming operations?
We started with feeding hemp hulls to our cattle about 4 years ago. Now we’re also feeding hemp hulls to the pigs. Our mentality with our animals is that the more diversity you can introduce to their diet, the healthier and happier they’ll be. For the cattle, the hemp hulls are more of a food source, and it helps us put more weight on them. In the pigs we use hemp hulls more like a supplement: the high fiber content can clean up their digestion and clear out parasites—and parasites can be a big issue with pigs.
We also use hemp hulls with our mushrooms, now that we’re using a bag cultivation method. A lot of commercial growers will mix hardwood saw dust with another high fiber protein substrate like soybean hulls. We found hemp hulls to be a really great substrate.
What motivated you to partner with Victory Hemp?
I first met [Victory Hemp’s CEO] Chad because we were talking about maybe growing hemp. Then he suggested we try adding his hemp products to our cattle’s feed. Soybean hulls are usually used. Just the fact that I have a local resource literally just up the road that’s also a byproduct of hemp grown by U.S. farmers is completely fantastic. Like Victory Hemp, it’s our goal to be sustainable and to cut down on waste. And our partnership gets to Chad’s mission to support the local farming community.