The Pairodox Philosophy
The Pair o’ dox of Pairodox Farm is a pair of Ph.Ds, in zoology and in plant ecology. The paradox is that two people with so much education could still have so much to learn about one of the most ancient and fundamental human activities, farming. We never made a conscious decision to become farmers. Our lifestyle has evolved in a way that is consistent with the biological principles we have studied and taught for so many years. It began when we bought our first home on 25 acres of woods, fields, and a small barn. A property with a few acres and a barn is preadapted for farm animals. Once an empty farmyard is colonized by a few species, conditions become favorable for more and different ones in a process not unlike secondary succession. A few pens and fences fill, more are built, more space is created, and more animals arrive. If you already have sheep, it is not much trouble to add a few goats and a flock guardian such as a llama or donkey. If you are set up to milk goats, how much harder can it be to milk a cow? If you have fencing and pasture and haymaking equipment for cows, you can feed a horse. A few chickens can lead easily to ducks, turkeys, geese and other fowl. All the extra milk and eggs must not be wasted, a pig is needed to consume the surplus. And so on. Animals happen. Pairodox Farm began with two teachers, two children, two cats, and two dogs. Over the intervening years it has included chickens, sheep, goats, llamas, rabbits, turkeys, horses, pigs, ducks, cattle, and geese, and a relocation to a larger premises.
An undergraduate research project to identify and locate plants for the proposed reconstruction of Celia Thaxer’s legendary flower garden as described in her 1894 book, An Island Garden, led to the realization that many of the varieties grown then simply no longer exist. As fashions change, the traits breeders select for change. Many of the intervening stages are lost. The same is true for livestock. Modern breeds have been developed for maximum productivity in modern ‘factory’ farming operations. Older breeds, selected from ancestral stock for hardiness, efficiency, versatility, and other traits once important to subsistence farmers, are disappearing and taking these valuable traits with them. However there is new hope for some of these breeds. A growing awareness of the drawbacks of factory farms and concerns about the antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and other measures necessary to their success is resulting in increased interest in grass-fed, free-range, and organically raised livestock. Older, hardier, and more efficient breeds are better adapted to these conditions, and some are enjoying a resurgence of interest. At Pairodox Farm, we appreciate the value of the genetic reservoirs contained in these old breeds, and are attempting to find and specialize in raising those most likely to be successful in our situation.