Yonder Way Farm - Farming and Celebrating Nature

By Paula Niño Kehr / Photography By Bob Levy | May 09, 2016
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Local Hero farmer celebrates 10 years of pasture-raised meats and sustainable farming
 

Two to three times every week, Jason Kramer drives from his 40-acre farm in Fayetteville to some 20 locations in Houston and beyond, delivering his pastured meats and eggs to a growing community of customers. Farmer Jason, as he’s known, parks his white truck at churches, CrossFit gyms, chiropractors’ offices and neighborhood parks, talking to customers as they pick up their orders and often helping them carry their bags.

This delivery model has allowed Kramer and his family to take the food they raise at Yonder Way Farm, as well as products from other farms, to hundreds of families in and around Houston. And it’s a display of their commitment to raising good food and getting it into people’s hands in the most convenient way possible.

IN PURSUIT OF HEALTH

This year 10 years ago in 2006, Kramer and his wife, Lynsey, started farming out of a desire to improve their health and source local, sustainable food for their family. Jason, working at the time as a Houston firefighter, wasn’t in the best health. “I went to get a life insurance policy and pretty much was at high risk. At 26, you’re going, ‘Well, how in the world did that happen?’” he said. That question led them to uncover the deep connection between food and health. They packed up, moved to family land in Brenham and started growing food for their family. They also bought from other farms and realized that there were a lot of part-time and hobby farms but none that could supply them continuously.

“That’s when we started to form our model,” said Jason. “We wanted to commit [to farming] full time and be able to have food on the ground, so when people call and have this aha moment of needing to make a lifestyle change, we’re there to go: ‘Hey, yeah, we have it for you.’”

piglet drinking from a fountain
helping with chores

AS NATURE INTENDED

Yonder Way Farm sits at the end of an unpaved path off of FM 1291, a couple of minutes away from the center of Fayetteville, a historic town of less than 300 between Houston and Austin. The Kramers and their four daughters—Kaylyn, 11; Laney Rae, 9; Ruthie, 6; and Exie Jo, 5—moved to the farm in 2012 having outgrown the farm in Brenham. Lynsey home-schools the girls and Jason pays them for farm chores they choose to take part in. It teaches them the value of work and doesn’t create bitterness from feeling forced to do farm work, he explains.

Entering the farm, behind the iron gate, one passes the Kramers’ two-story white house and a small playground before coming upon the picturesque 100-year-old red barn that serves as shelter for some of the farm’s animals. Behind it, expansive green pastures give the animals at Yonder Way Farm an idyllic setting to live in and roam around.

Freedom Ranger chickens run and forage freely on the pastures. Pigs of various heritage breeds—Berkshires, Red Wattles, Mangalitsas, Durocs, Poland China and Large Blacks—are free to graze and root the land. The Red Angus cattle the Kramers raise graze on several plots of leased land in Fayette County. The cows feed exclusively on grass, while other animals’ natural diets are supplemented with a custom feed free of GMOs, corn or soy. For processing, the animals are taken to Lad’s Smokehouse in Needville.

Jason tries to steer clear of labels to describe his farm. “We’re simply raising food the way that it was intended to be raised from the beginning. That is, in a sense, allowing the animals to be truly what they are,” he said. If anything, the Kramers would bill themselves as transparent. In an industry where it’s easy to mask practices by using the right catchphrases, they keep an open-farm policy and welcome customers who are interested in buying their pastured meats and eggs to pick up their orders at the farm. “We don’t want people to take our word for what we do. We want them to see for themselves,” said Lynsey.

sign for yonder way farm
girl and pig

COMMUNITY THROUGH FOOD

Openness and transparency have helped the Kramers build a true community. “Once you start buying from them it’s hard to go back,” said Joshua Weissman, the 20-year-old author of the Slim Palate blog and cookbook. Weissman has been a customer for four years and has become close with the Kramers. To him, what makes Yonder Way Farm special is the honesty with which the Kramers run their business, how approachable they are and their commitment to keep things local even as they grow. Not to mention the fact that Farmer Jason is at every dropoff point, happy to talk to people and answer questions, even as he runs the farm’s day-to-day operations.

Yonder Way Farm fills an estimated 500 to 550 orders per month, which Jason estimates feed between 200 and 250 families in Houston, Austin and New Braunfels; 90% of their customers are in Houston. They also sell to a handful of restaurants, including Revival Market, which celebrated its five-year anniversary in mid-March by roasting two Yonder Way Farm pigs. Morgan Weber, co-owner of Revival Market: “What I’ve always loved about Jason and Lynsey is that what you see is what you get and what they’re telling you is the truth. They just have an unrelenting drive to be as honest as they can possibly be.”

Along with their meat and eggs, customers can order products from other farms and small businesses, including produce from Johnson’s Organic Backyard in Austin, raw milk from Stryk Farm in Schulenburg and Daley Bread loaves from Calvert.

girls and lamb on farm
guest house at yonder way farm

GROWING THROUGH THE SEASONS

Despite steady growth over their 10 years, Yonder Way Farm has experienced ups and downs. Heavy rains, droughts, frost and predators account for losses as a natural consequence of raising animals outdoors and free to roam. But one of the biggest challenges is the uncertainty of whether people will be there to buy the meat the Kramers have been raising for six months to a year. “Given that you don’t have any true contractual commitment from anybody, how do you know how much to produce? That’s taught me more faith than anything,” said Jason.

The Kramers have learned to go with the seasons and are constantly looking for ways to get their food into the hands of more people. One way they plan to do that is to get more people out to the farm through open-farm days, educational events and even perhaps more farm dinners. At the end of March, Lynsey and Jason opened the Yonder Way Bunkhouse, a quaint, one-bedroom guesthouse available for stays at the farm. Guests will receive their fresh eggs, farm sausage, local bread and coffee and can prepare breakfast in the guesthouse kitchen.

The hope is that by connecting people to their food source, they’ll become more vested in the farm and its products. “It’s a beautiful thing to be able to see animals and nature working together, ultimately for us,” said Jason. “I hope that when people see that, it ignites something in them that makes them want to commit.”

>For ordering and delivery information, visit yonderwayfarm.com. Pickups at the farm by appointment only.

Article from Edible Houston at http://ediblehouston.ediblecommunities.com/shop/yonder-way-farm-farming-and-celebrating-nature
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