Having built his career playing a highly physical and competitive sport, Will Witherspoon, former NFL linebacker, is especially aware of the health benefits of pasture-based, high-welfare farming. “I want my kids, and all kids really, to grow up in a way that is more in touch with the natural environment,” Will explains. “My cattle and laying hens are raised as nature intended, on grass, and aren't fed growth hormones, antibiotics or other unnatural additives. In pro-football, you can’t take over-the-counter cold medicines without letting a trainer know about it. Why would I want my kids eating beef from cattle fed hormones or antibiotics?”
After intensive research, Witherspoon chose a traditional breed of cattle called the British White Park to build his herd at Shire Gate. The White Park is a docile breed which thrives in a grass fed environment and provides superior milk and meat. His research also led him to Animal Welfare Approved and pasture-based farming. “I wanted Shire Gate Farm to be true to nature and true to the way things should be done,” Will explains. “That means putting the welfare and care of the animals first. The great thing about the AWA program is that it offers a wealth of information and provides access to people who can help me raise my herd and build my farm. There’s no way I can go wrong.” Following his success with cattle, Witherspoon decided to incorporate laying hens into his farm as well. The birds are now an integral part of the farm ecosystem, foraging in the pastures and helping to control biting flies and other pests which can irritate the cattle or spread disease.
So why does Will put so much care and effort into raising food, in addition to being a pro athlete? “Our goal is to produce an experience for our consumers that would equal the experience our family enjoyed at the first harvest,” Will explains. He believes in the superior product that comes from achieving a state of harmony between the land and the animals.
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