At the end of a dead-end road near Wilmot, New Hampshire, lies Kear-Wood Farms. This lovely 300 acres of woods and hay pastures is owned by John & Julie Morse. Here, on this typical New England farm, they raised 4 sons along with chickens and cows and vegetables. Jay, Matthew, Peter & Joel grew up healthy and strong and moved away to careers in the city.
Jay Morse now lives in Illinois where he works in the aerospace manufacturing industry. But part of his heart is on that New England farm and he wants to make sure that the farm stays in the family and provides a place for his children to visit and play. So he and his dad started searching for new ways to utilize the land and keep it productive. They thought about buffalo but worried about damage to their woods. Then John heard about elk from another farmer in New Hampshire and they contacted the extension service.
They checked out the topic of elk carefully - how to raise them, how to lay out the facility and the pens, the various products that can be harvested. They decided to look for good, strong cows bred to a variety of good velvet genetics. They bought 20 cows in 1997 and did it again the next year.
The herd has grown since then. There are now over 100 elk at Kear-Wood Farms. John & Julie take care of the animals and do the daily chores. Jay visits often and travels the country checking out the various markets, keeping his fingers on the pulse of the industry. Their attention to genetics has produced some fine offspring. Their bull, The Frenchman, earned 1st place in the 5-year-old Typical Hard Antler class in the Northeast Region last year. Jay is now an antler judge. This year he will be judging velvet at the Alberta competition.
Kear-Wood sells have been to a New Hampshire hunting preserve and a breed bull to a New York elk farm. Kear-Wood Farms has also sold buttons, hard antler, velvet and velvet products such as: velvet capsules, hand cream, shampoo and elixir. They anticipate future sales locally for bred cows to New England farms and look forward to a strong market for meat.
Here are a few helpful hints to the new or potential elk farmer from John & Jay Morse:
- Join NAEBA and your local association. They are the best things going for the industry. You can learn a lot from them, and you have a stronger voice in legislative issues.
- Visit lots of farms before starting. This allows you to see the many different ways that things are done and helps you find the best animals for the best price for your operation.
- Don't complain until you get involved. We must give back to our industry if we expect it to grow and flourish.
- UNDERSTAND that to be involved in any alternative agriculture means much more than producing. Marketing is of primary importance and deserves as much time and attention as good husbandry.
Visit the Kear-Wood Farms website!