Hundling Family Farm: Sustainability through Diversification

Brice and Melanie Hundling run a diversified family farm in Breda, Iowa, and have been partnering with Niman Ranch since 2005. Together, their main enterprises are raising pigs and cattle for Niman Ranch, sheep and goats for direct-to-consumer sales and several grain varieties. The Hundlings prioritize diversification on the farm, also raising ducks, geese, laying hens, broilers, turkeys, peacocks, guineas and bees on their land.

The Hundlings work to create a vibrant and resilient landscape. To achieve this, they have implemented several conservation practices throughout the years, including putting Nofence collars on livestock, planting cover crops and grazing livestock on them, putting in edible windbreaks and increasing overall farm diversity.

Rotational Grazing with Nofence Technology

The Hundlings are currently a pilot program customer for Nofence collars, the world’s first virtual fencing system. Several years ago, Brice heard about the product and was especially interested in their multi-species capability. Today, they use the collars on their goats, sheep and cattle, specifically for grazing livestock on cover crops. The virtual collars allow the Hundlings to practice rotational grazing with reduced labor and fencing costs.

Planting Cover Crops to Build Soil Health

The Hundlings have been planting cover crops for the last 20 years. For the last 15 of those years they have built on this practice by grazing livestock on those acres. This gives their permanent pasture a rest, and they believe that the health benefits for the soil and the livestock go hand in hand. “If you are not planting cover crops after chopping silage, you are not doing the soil justice,” says Brice, “for us, it is required.”

Edible Windbreaks to Support Biodiversity

To further enhance their farm’s diversity, the Hundlings also planted an edible windbreak. The primary purpose of a windbreak is to slow the wind to protect soil, crops and livestock—by incorporating edible species, the windbreaks offer greater biodiversity not to mention treats for farmers, livestock and wildlife. With support from the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program, their windbreak consists of many plant species including two varieties of serviceberries, redbud trees to make jelly from their flowers, white pine trees for spruce tip syrup, aronia berries, wild plums and three different types of hardwood nuts. “Why not give it a try,” says Brice, “If we can add species to our land that have edible benefits to us and wildlife, we might as well do it!”

Humanely Raised Livestock

The Hundlings also diversified their farm with Niman Ranch pigs and cattle. “Cattle and pigs truly complement each other,” says Brice, “There is shared equipment for both species and the livestock work hand-in-hand with the soil because the manure is used on the crop ground.” Cattle graze on the crop land (using the Nofence technology highlighted above) and the feed produced on the land is then given to the livestock—a full circle approach.

Not only are there environmental benefits to farm diversification, but financial as well. Brice prefers not having their eggs in one basket to help provide protection during more challenging years. Having multiple species helps keep everything balanced.

Brice and Melanie have five children and make it a point to have a healthy lifestyle by living off the land as much as possible. Together, the Hundlings practice stewardship and work to raise the next generation to do the same.