Pittsburgher Highland Farm is the realization of of a dream of providing a source of quality, healthy and environmentally sustainable food in a manner that treats animals and the environment with respect.
Why we feel strongly about sustainable farming...
Mark grew up on a conventional dairy farm in Jefferson County. He saw first hand how the industrial food production system affected the individuals doing the hard work of farming, the animals existing on the farm as well as the land. He vowed not to return to the farm and its never ending work and poor quality of life of the animals.
After a career in commercial real estate and community development, he felt called back to the farm when he began learning about ‘alternative’ farming methods that were not only less work but also environmentally sustainable and more humane. He began to experiment with raising grass fed cattle and slowly building his herd, as he learned how to practice regenerative grazing, contributing to the improvement of the soil, the health of the animals and the quality of the beef. He decided on Scottish Highland cattle because they are a heritage breed that has been around for ages, as well as their docile nature, hardy characteristics and adaptability to a grass-fed diet. He kept a small herd of 10 to 15 animals on a farm in Westmoreland County.
Health Benefits and Sustainable Growth
Dana and her family had been purchasing beef from Mark since 2012 as they changed their diet from the ‘Standard American Diet’ to one based on real, natural food. This change was a last ditch effort to stave off surgery for Dana’s autoimmune condition. The changes succeeded in putting her into remission and sparking her interest in nutrition and health.
Nearly 5 years ago, Mark and Dana decided to pool their overlapping interests in grass fed beef, health and environmental sustainability and grow Mark’s fledgling business. They moved the cattle to a larger farm near New Stanton and began buying animals from trusted sources to increase their herd size. In 2016, they began bringing to market the lamb raised by their neighbor on pasture next to the farm in New Stanton.
In 2017, they acquired the cattle of a another farm that had decided to not farm anymore and nearly doubled the size of their herd. To better accommodate the growing herd and improve beef quality, they rented a nearby additional 30 acres for finishing animals.
In 2018, they added hens to the grazing rotation in a progression that adds nutrient value to the soil, eggs and beef. Future plans include the addition of more hens and possibly other fowl as well as pastured pigs and riding horses.
The tiny house offered an off-grid, on-farm experience that illustrated the benefits of sustainable agriculture.
They purchased a (very) tiny house for the farm in 2015 so that Mark could spend more time there when needed to care for the animals and the property. The house was completely off-grid with a composting toilet, rainwater collection system and solar panels.
In an effort to support the growth of the business and allow people to learn firsthand about farm life, they began offering the tiny house for rent. This was well-received and the house quickly booked up for short and longer term stays. Tenants were able to gain a better understanding of farm life. Many enjoyed spending time with chickens, collecting eggs and assisting Mark as he moved the cattle to new pasture each day. All enjoyed the simplicity of off-grid living in a serene country setting.
A Bad Storm for Our Tiny House
On June 26th, a violent thunderstorm turned into a small localized tornado and picked the tiny house up from its base and tossed it down the hill, destroying it completely. Thankfully no one was in the house and the cattle and hens were unharmed. The house had become a great asset to the farm and to the mission of increasing awareness of sustainable farming, and Mark and Dana were determined to rebuild. Unfortunately, the insurance company only provided funds to cover the amount paid for the house in 2015, and nothing for the demolition and cleanup of the destroyed tiny house.
Mark and Dana are planning to purchase a slightly larger model tiny house that will sleep up to 4 people comfortably. Like the first one, it will be completely off-grid and include a deck and fire pit to enhance the farm experience. A well-stocked fishing pond is situated just down the hill.
For more information about our farm, visit http://pittsburgherhighlandfarm.com
Reaching Out for Help
They are reaching out to the community to support this effort and be a part of their efforts to increase awareness of and access to healthy, environmentally sustainable and humane sources of good food.
Mark and Dana hope that you'll consider joining their efforts to rebuild. They are offering a variety of rewards include overnights at the new Highland House, their delicious grass fed ground beef, and merchandise featuring the new Highland House logo.
Risks and challenges
There are always risks and challenges when undertaking a construction project. Every precaution will be taken to ensure the new house is erected safely, on budget and on time. The new house will be permanently anchored in place in an attempt to prevent future storm damage.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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