Palouse Prairie Farm

Jen Elliot and her husband, Chance Chacon, didn't always know they'd end up where they are today. When Jen started college, she was in school for Landscape Architecture, not Agriculture. After finishing her degree (and adding an extra one in Education), experimenting with living in places like Alaska and Hawaii, she and Chance finally settled in Troy, Idaho.

Palouse Prairie Farms’ primary operation is raising grass-fed beef cattle, and their approach is holistic: they raise their own breeding stock, grow their own beef, and farm the land so that it provides the cattle a healthy diet. Much of the conventionally produced meat found on shelves in big-box chain groceries is fed with grain, but at Palouse Prairie, the cows eat grass. Cows are part of a family known as ruminants - their four-chambered stomachs extract nutrients from grass through a gradual fermentation process. That's why Jen and Chance believe a 100 percent grass diet is what cattle are most suited for. 

Farming runs in both the Elliot and the Chacon families. The way Jen raises cows is the way her grandmother raised cows, and the way their children Ella May (7) and Sam (9) are now learning to raise cows. Jen encourages their budding entrepreneurship - despite their age, the two manage and care for a small flock of chickens, whose eggs they sell at the Moscow Farmers Market and the Moscow Food Co-op.

Even when they aren't tending their pasture or caring for their herd, Jen, Chance, and the kids still spend most of their time outdoors. Vacations consist of whitewater rafting, and riding on horseback into the back-country. In Fall, they volunteer with the United States Forest Service at a ranger station alongside the Selway River in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. There they act as guides and hosts to others who come out to experience and enjoy Idaho's natural landscape.

The Moscow Food Co-op sells grass-fed ground beef by Palouse Prairie Farms in the Meat department, and is hoping to soon expand its selection. The only other place to get Palouse Prairie beef is directly from Jen at the Moscow Farmers Market, where on Saturdays May through October, Jen cooks free samples for customers at her tent. Their operation is small, but the difference is clear in the end result.

  Several members of Palouse Prairie's herd lounge in their pasture. Palouse Prairie cattle are grazed outdoors on a rotation that ensures they always have access fresh and nutritious feed.

Several members of Palouse Prairie's herd lounge in their pasture. Palouse Prairie cattle are grazed outdoors on a rotation that ensures they always have access fresh and nutritious feed.

  Ella Mae (center) and Jen (right) lead a tour for community members and Co-op employees

Ella Mae (center) and Jen (right) lead a tour for community members and Co-op employees

  Jen encourages natural biodiversity on the farm with a wide array of native plants.

Jen encourages natural biodiversity on the farm with a wide array of native plants.

To learn more about Palouse Prairie Farms, see their website: http://www.palouseprairiefarms.com.

by Terri Schmidt, Co-op Volunteer Writer.
photo credit Alycia Rock, Co-op Marketing Manager.