The Recorder : Contented Cows, Contented Customers
John Chaney is a rancher and a horseman who has spent his life developing his skills in both. Not a gentleman farmer who has retired to the country in search of the rural life, Chaney is a farmer gentleman, originally from rural western North Carolina, with family near Front Royal, who has run a successful farming enterprise in Maryland and now wants to raise his family in the mountains of Virginia.
He has been recognized for his humane treatment of his livestock by Humane Farm Animal Care, a nonprofit supported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Sounds urban and exotic, but Chaney is country, through and through. He says he is doing nothing special, just what makes sense.
The avoidance of hormones and excessive use of antibiotics makes a better beef product, Chaney maintains; the proof is on the table. Other farmers probably do the same as he does because it makes sense economically and practically. Chaney says it doesn't make sense to spend extra money on expensive supplements when a naturally raised and fed beef is better for the consumer and better for the land.
Chaney's cows graze under a blue sky during the day and sleep under the stars at night. Cattle were meant to live outdoors, Chaney says. They use the cover of nearby woods to shade them from the elements when they need to. They go where and when they want to go.
The meat is relatively expensive. The minimum quantity one can buy is a quarter beef at 188 pounds and $4.50 a pound. But you're assured a good product raised in a humane way. If the welfare of the animal is no concern, then the taste might be the deciding factor, or the choice. Chaney will let the consumer pick out the cow he or she wants, seeing first hand the conditions in which it lives, what it eats and drinks. Customers can judge for themselves the quality of the meat by looking at the animal alive in its natural setting, Chaney says.
Besides cattle, Chaney raises, breeds, sells and trains horses. His wife, Sarah, works in marketing from her home-based office. They have a preschool-aged son named J.R. who they intend to send to public school in Highland County.
Chaney wants to live in Highland because this is more like the home he remembers growing up in. He has chosen the Bullpasture Valley as his home, with the intention of moving his operation here this summer. He is building a house on the land that should be finished by fall.
Chaney owns 111 acres and leases 128 acres on Route 654 north of McDowell.
More information on Against the Wind Ranch can be found at www.againstthewindranch.com.