Free Union Grass Farm

Address: 3565 Ballards Mill Road
Free Union, VA  22940

Click to view hours

Phone: (434) 823-4632
Categories: Farm

Located about 20 minutes northwest of  Charlottesville, Free Union Grass Farm is run by Joel Slezak and Erica Hellen. Foodwaze has visited their farm and you can read a full description under the Details tab. Their Farm Store is located on the farm and open to visitors. Here is an overview of the farm:

• Animals raised: British White, Angus, and Angus/Hereford beef cattle; heritage breed pigs; Freedom Ranger meat chickens; as well as ducks and laying hens.

• Living Environment: All animals are raised outdoors. Cattle are in fields their entire lives. The pigs live in the woods and pastures. Chickens are protected from predators by mobile houses and electric fences and hens use a mobile hen house.

• Animal Diets: Cattle are 100% grass-fed. The pigs forage for nuts, berries, fruit, roots, and bugs. The poultry also forage in the pastures. They’re supplemented with non-GMO grains.

• Grazing Methods: This farm takes the job of being stewards of the land to heart. They maintain daily rotational grazing  to ensure the animals are constantly moved to the best available grass and that healthy soil is built and maintained.

• Other Practices: There are NO chemicals, biosolids, hormones, or sub-therapeutic antibiotics used on the farm. 

• Other Products in the Store: All meat products are from the farm.

Other things to know about this Place:  

•  The farm patners with other local farms to raise its beef cattle and its ducks.

•  In addition to their farm store you can buy direct from them at the City Market on Saturday mornings, March-December.

This listing was compiled using the following processes:

• A site visit, or visits

• Discussion with the owners, management, and/or staff

• Other research

Free Union Grass Farm is located just a little northwest of Charlottesville, Virginia. Foodwaze has visited the farm several times to learn first-hand about its holistic and sustainable farming practices. The farm produces beef, pork, chicken, duck, and eggs using a management intensive grazing system. Tremendous energy and passion are devoted to raising happy, healthy livestock on this farm, and we are confident any food of theirs you are eating provides the highest quaity nutrition and nourishment.

Free Union Grass Farm is run by husband-and-wife team Joel and Erica Slezak, a couple whose youth and intelligence give testament to the potential for a new generation of American farmers. Joel, who grew up on the property, and Erica, are both college educated and well-schooled in all aspects of sustainable agriculture. Witnessing their devotion and enthusiasm first-hand leaves no doubt about the quality of meat they are producing and their commitment toward a building better future for our food system. 

Rotational grass gazing serves as the backbone for their multi-species operation...hence, the inclusion of “grass farm” in the name. Animals are maintained in spaces that allow enough opportunity for them to roam, while ensuring that they fully harvest the available forage. Once they do that, they are rotated to a new pasture. All the livestock complement each other in their gazing habits and help maintain healthy soil without ever the need for chemical fertilizers or pesticide. 

Their cows are 100% grass-fed and finished. They are rotated to new pastures just about every day to keep their forage fresh and healthy. In winter they are fed hay from nearby farms that are free of pesticides and chemicals. In order to expand their beef offerings, Free Union Grass Farm partners with nearby Riverdale Farm and Oakencroft Farm, which both also raise grass-fed and finished cattle.

In the wake of the cows, come the chickens, which are kept in portable systems that allow them to pasture feed, keep them from straying, and protect them from predators. For the egg layers, they use a portable system called an Egg Roll, which provides for indoor nesting and roosting, and outdoor access to pasture. For meat chickens they have devised a system called Pasture Nomads, which provide protection while allowing a little more room to roam compared to other types of portable systems used on sustainable farms.

Both of these systems allow the birds to be raised completely on pasture. Chickens are omnivores and like to feed on grass and insects. They help break down the cow manure in the fields into more fertile content and help further fertilize the soil with their own manure. The chickens are supplemented with a non-GMO ration from local Sunrise Farm that is a blend of corn, soybean, fishmeal and kelp. 

Raising meat chickens is very labor-intensive and many farms shy away from it as a  result. But Free Union Grass Farm does not... indeed they go a step further. The farm raises a breed of meat chicken called the Poulet Rouge (also known as the Freedom Ranger) which is more naturally suited to wide-ranging pasture feeding. 

For years, Free Union Grass Farm has also raised meat ducks, and now partners with nearby Seven Oaks Farm to do so. Seven Oaks is converted from an estate farm and provides more space for the ducks to roam in pasture. Last to discuss are the pigs, which can be found at Free Union Grass Farm during the warmer months of the year when they can forage in the shade and woods, eating roots and bugs. They too are supplemented with a non-GMO feed from Sunrise Farm.

Free Union Grass Farm maintains complete transparency and invites consumers out to visit their farm stand and buy product direct two days a week.