As a young, beginning, or small farmer, identifying a need in the local agriculture community can create a great opportunity for growth. Ethan Kastel, a native of Lewanee County, Michigan, recognized the need for a hoof trimmer in his area after years of struggling to find one to service his farm. He took matters into his own hands with the help of GreenStone’s Grow Forward Grant and enrolled in the Dairyland Hoof Care Institute educational program.
“When I started my farm again as a small business, I just couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do,” he said. Just like when I was little, I could never get a hoof trimmer to the house. I finally thought, “well, this is a pretty good niche. The skill is in short supply with a big demand.”
Ethan has lived on his family farm since he could crawl and grew up raising show cattle, beef cattle, and dairy goats. He has worked in a slaughterhouse, dairy farm, hog farm, and in recent years he, his wife Bobbi, and their two kids started their own small business called Second Chances Farms where they raise beef cattle and sell hay.
Ethan learned about the Grow Forward Grant program when he was in the process of purchasing another hay field for his farm. He realized that the grant could assist him in learning more about hoof trimming and maintenance to care for his own animals. He did some research and found out about the Dairyland Hoof Care Institute. After being approved for the grant, Ethan got to work learning the important elements of hoof care.
Since 2018, GreenStone has awarded up to $40,000 in grant money to assist young, beginning, and small farmers expand their knowledge and grow their businesses through educational events and professional resources. Ethan received $1,000 for the educational program through the Dairyland Hoof Care Institute.
“Dairyland Hoof Care Institute taught everything from pinpointing a cow going lame to proper animal housing, husbandry, classifications of problems, and knowing the right treatment for that exact hoof,” said Ethan. “It also taught me what improper hoof care looks like, how to perform correct functional hoof trimming, and what equipment is needed in the process. You name it, they go over it. Anything that has to do with a cow is covered.”
Ethan started his own hoof trimming business called Quality & Affordable Hoof Care where he services farms in the tri-state area. Ethan is grateful that he took the Dairyland course because it gave him depth that he never would have considered and enabled him to become an expert in hoof trimming. Now, Ethan can recognize lameness and correctness just by looking at a cow, the way she walks, and the way she is acting.
His advice for anyone hesitating to apply for a Grow Forward Grant is, “If you are like me and want to learn more about whatever your agriculture interest is and make yourself a better or more knowledgeable farmer, I would just apply.”
GreenStone looks forward to supporting many more young, beginning, and small farmers like Ethan who are looking to expand their knowledge and strengthen their business. Visit GreenStone's website to learn more about the specialized loan programs, grants, mentorships and resources designed specifically to support young, beginning and small farmers.