Grass-fed goodness from John’s Farm.
John’s Farm in Fairview is one of only four livestock operations in Oklahoma to produce organic beef. Owned and operated by John and Kris Gosney, the farm manages a herd of approximately 350 red angus year round, of which 100 are breeder cattle. The couple or their representatives attend the Scissortail Park farmers market the first Saturday of each month, bringing with them various cuts of beef for sale.
“Our cattle are 100-percent grass fed,” Kris said. “We don’t finish them with corn like other grass-fed operations. We’re also animal welfare approved.”
The land — including all grazing pastures — has been certified organic since 1996, but the couple started farming in 1969, shortly after John graduated SWOSU. The story of John’s Farm, though, goes all the way back to 1893, when the great-great-grandfathers of both John and Kris staked their claims to land in Major County about 20 miles apart. Due to its location in the Gloss Mountains, the terrain is difficult to navigate, even today, so it’s unlikely that the couple’s forebears actually knew each other.
Kris’ family (Ratzlaff) staked their claim just outside what is now Fairview, while John’s family’s claim was a good 12 miles from town. The Ratzlaff claim is now Sunshine Farm, and while its main purpose is grazing land, the couple has also repurposed a mobile home into an Airbnb with an old silo doubling as a stargazing platform.
The Gosneys opted to go organic when a friend asked them to manage his land in 1995, with the caveat that the land remain organically farmed, as it had been since the Land Run. Organic farming wasn’t unknown then, but it wasn’t common either, and Kris said she’s certain that their decision gave the farmers at the co-op something to talk about for years.
Toward that end, the Gosneys planted native grasses, installed terraces and ponds and worked on soil health; they’re farmers as well as ranchers. More than 25 years later, organic is the norm, and it’s not without challenges. There is no organic processor in Oklahoma, so the cattle are shipped to Kiowa, Kansas, for processing. The commitment to grass-fed beef also means more time in pasture.
“Corn is used to fatten grass-fed beef right before slaughter,” Kris said, “but we finish only with grass, which means we have to allow the cows to grow from 1,000 pounds to 1,400 pounds to add fat naturally.”
Adding fat is the only way to avoid the two most common criticisms of grass-finished beef: that it’s less flavorful and more stringy. The extra time in pasture increases the fat content, and flavor comes from fat more than meat.
Last year, the Gosneys received a value-add grant from the USDA to help get the word out about their organic beef. One of the approaches was to collaborate with longtime friend and professional caterer Bettina Hale and her Wild Fig LLC — they partner up to offer a dinner on the farm every quarter. Meals are served at the family’s dinner table with John and Kris present to answer questions, tell stories and enjoy an evening of guests dining on the fruit of their labor. Prior to the dinner, the Gosneys offer a tour of the farm, including a couple of areas in the Gloss Mountains, one of which was John’s great-great-grandfather’s original claims.
Information on the dinners is available on their website, johnsfarm.com, under the “Shop” tab, or you can just ask them when you meet them at the Scissortail Park farmers market.