Farmer Spotlight: Doug Metzger
Tamworth Farmer Doug Metzger was truly at the ground zero of our business and the heritage food movement. He was the magic man that first introduced us to our processor Paradise Locker Meats, with whom we have worked and grown ever since and he worked together with Frank Reese raising heritage turkeys from about 2002 to 2013.
At 83-years-old, Doug raises purebred, certified Berkshire and Tamworth pigs on his 1,500 acre farm in Seneca, Kansas, with his wife Betty.
In an era of specialization Doug is an anomaly. Doug is famous for adapting to any moment. In 2001 he took our call and agreed to raise heritage turkeys for us with Frank Reese because he believed that the growing food movement would appreciate the flavor of the birds his grandfather raised. As demand grew for quality meat, Doug got into heritage pigs and transitioned his commodity farm to a pastured farm and haven for the rare Tamworth breed.
Doug has been farming since 1951. As a kid he raised chickens but gave them up when he got into turkeys. As he got older, he broke into the milk cattle game. Then he tried sheep, but he says he couldn’t get them to breed right. He also raised Aylesbury ducks — a rare heritage breed. Over the years the acres on his sprawling farm have been used to grow wheat, corn, oats, barley, sorghum, alfalfa, and rye. He even grew flax one year because he heard it was supposed to help the immune system of the cattle, which he thought it did. “It certainly made their coats look wonderful,” Doug says.
Today farmers are incentivized to grow monocrops of corn and soybean — “that’s all they want us to grow,” Doug explains, “and farmers haul their crops to town instead of using it for something on their own farm.” Doug remembers fondly the days when a diversified farm would grow corn and turn it into whiskey, or when soybeans were grown for the purpose of feeding milk cattle — as Doug did on his farm. “Keep your grain,” Doug insists, “and use it to grow a truly sustainable farm.”
Doug was never one to use chemicals to grow food. He believes any talk of sustainability is not real when you raise only one crop or when you use chemicals to do it. “My buddy and I could clear 100 acres of weeds in a day if we worked through the night, and we did not need any additives to do it. All those chemicals are part of the reason there are so many cancers around, if you ask me.” Doug has amassed generations of farming secrets having grown so many foods naturally, often calling upon experiences from decades ago to solve a problem that presents itself today.
Doug comes from a truly great American farming family — Life Magazine once wrote that Doug’s father, who lived to be 104, had more living descendants than any American – many of them farmers. His is part of the story of immigrants who came to the New World and made good through old-fashioned values, tradition, and hard work.
“We’re here today to save these breeds,” says Doug, who is as down-home as the farm he still works on as he approaches his 84th birthday. “Save the breeds and make a little money. We got a lot of things going on, we have a lot of land. But it’s getting hard to keep up with it all… I need more young people! When I was young, we raised turkeys in spring and sold ‘em all by Christmas. We milked cattle all year round. I want to keep working — my dad was helping me when he was 84!”
His conversational style always brings insight and interesting thoughts to bear. We hope Doug and Betty work with us for many years to come and that their beliefs of diversified farming continue. Today, his farm is supported through the work of his daughter Marilyn and her husband Stan, and their children Simon and Joel.