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Our Manifesto

I'm Blaine, the 2nd oldest son, and my brothers have tagged me as the CEO at Seven Sons. 

While all seven of us brothers grew up working on this farm, I never imagined we would stick together and operate a regenerative farm and business together. 

Today, I want to give a fuller glimpse into our farm by sharing some real stories of how our family’s journey unfolded over the past two decades. 

From an external perspective, I'm sure many people perceive us as the 'ideal family' where everything has always gone smoothly. However, today, I intend to challenge that perception.

The stories you are about to read will unveil a series of trials and triumphs that formed the bonds that keep our family strong today.

There are 6 parts of our farm story, which conclude at the bottom with our manifesto to the future, but you can navigate to certain parts by clicking the desired sections below.


How a family crisis changed everything for us

In 1992, a crisis unfolded that would forever change our farm and cement our calling to regenerative agriculture.

In the spring of 1992, my mom gave birth to my third brother, Brice, but she became very ill within three weeks of delivery. Mom had difficulty caring for Brice, was exhausted, and was often bedridden.

"None of us knew what was happening nor understood why Mom's health was deteriorating so fast. My parents went to several doctors and specialists who could not pinpoint the cause of my mom's health problems. She became so ill that it was almost impossible for her to function."

Medical tests eventually revealed that my mom had a severe form of rheumatoid arthritis and that the inflammation had spread rapidly through her body. Doctors told her that with her rate of deterioration, it was likely in two to five years, she would need a hip replacement and be wheelchair-bound. They also told her she would never survive another pregnancy.

To make matters worse, our then-conventional farm was struggling financially, and mounting bills gave way to a period of overwhelm.

An unlikely breakthrough sparked by a soil agronomist

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Picture of Ray Smith (second from left) with Lee (far left) and Blake (far right)

As fate would have it, my dad had recently met a brilliant soil agronomist named Ray Smith, who began exposing us to the principles of regenerative farming.

With his understanding of biological and physiological systems, Ray Smith explained to my parents how soil, plant, animal, and human health are inextricably linked.

"Ray hypothesized that my mom had mineral deficiencies and an acidic pH body condition due to her pregnancy with Brice, which he believed had pulled a lot of minerals out of mom’s body, weakening her immune system."

Ray provided my mom with a recipe to balance her body's pH and, with sound nutritional advice, mom was back on her feet and feeling nearly normal in a matter of weeks. With continued advice from Ray and multiple holistic health advisors, her energy level returned, and she felt wonderful, eventually giving birth to four of my youngest brothers.

This unexpected and welcomed turnaround caused my parents to rethink everything and they enthusiastically started making changes toward regenerative agriculture. 

However, we all had yet to learn how tough these changes would be.

I wish I could say it was all roses from here, but the next ten years that unfolded were some of the most challenging years of our lives. 

Our rocky transition to regenerative farming (narrowly avoiding bankruptcy)

In 1995, my parents made the tough financial decision to close our confinement hog operation.

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The Days of Commercial Pig Production

This was a "burn the ships" decision for them as the CAFO hog operation was our family's primary source of cash flow. There was no turning back from here, and ultimately, this meant diving even deeper into debt.

We reinvested in building a pasture-based cattle operation that produced ethically-sourced meat with borrowed money from family. My brothers and I even cashed in our savings to help pay for fencing and pasture infrastructure.

The picture below was taken on April 21st, 2000, during the middle of our toughest decade.

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Through this period, my dad, brother Blake, and I (early teenagers at the time) had to take off-farm jobs while keeping the farm afloat. The farm fell into disrepair, we were hundreds of thousands in debt, bill collectors called daily, and we feared inevitable bankruptcy.

The unknowns and stress of these first ten years not only threatened our livelihood as farmers but even more painful was the significant relational toll that I saw it taking on my parents and the inevitable weight felt by us brothers. These were rocky and traumatic times for all of us.

It’s long been known that farmers can be some of the most persistent and stubborn people on planet earth, sometimes to a fault.

From my perspective as an older brother, the levels of stress we were all coping with were not worth it in order to keep the farm alive. We were running on fumes, and admittedly, most of us reached a point where we expected everything to end in a pile of ashes and a family divided.

But God had different plans.

Fast-forward to 2007 when this family photo was taken. My brother Blake was married to his wife Kim and they already had their first child Evalyn. I was 20 and had just married my wife Charis the prior spring.

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Neither Blake or I had aspirations for college so this meant we needed to pursue healthy careers, which the farm was in no position to provide, nor did we expect it to. 

That's when my parents made yet another bold move.

As a final act of determination (and desperation) to keep the regenerative farm dream alive, my parents offered to begin transitioning ownership of the farm to us older brothers and our wives. This wasn’t a gift or early inheritance as the arrangement came with an exchange of ongoing labor but the offer was very generous.

My parent's thought process was that the farm would have to succeed or fail based on our willingness and determination to stick it out. The choice and opportunity were ours.

We ultimately accepted the challenge, and the direction of the farm was now in our hands. This authority came with consequences, though. If things failed, it would directly impact us and our young families, and there was no safety net.

Beating the odds with bulldog persistence

The odds were significantly stacked against us as the average farm in our area requires 1,000+ acres to support just one full-time income.

Our farm was only 250 acres at the time, and we wanted to create income streams for multiple families. Any agriculture economist then and now would tell you we were setting out to accomplish the impossible, but we didn’t know any better. Not to mention, there was a significant financial debt load from the past ten years of going backward.

Because we were facing an uphill battle, we knew that if we were going to beat the odds, we'd have to do it by working together.

One of the principles of regenerative farming is that “the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts,” and we applied this principle to both our farm’s ecosystem as well as our working relationships as brothers.

Yet again, as fate would have it, the previous ten years of coping through hardships had unknowingly formed a strong "foxhole survival bond" between us brothers. This spirit of camaraderie turned out to be the key ingredient that would later unlock more potential than we ever dreamed possible.

We’ve all heard the saying, "What doesn't break you makes you stronger." This statement couldn’t be more true for us.

"Motivated with young entrepreneurial energy, my brothers and I implemented a divide-and-conquer business structure. Each of us put our heads down and focused our efforts on the most significant areas of interest and strengths while maintaining complete collaboration."

As the years unfolded, three of my brothers (Blake, Brice & Bruce) focused on livestock production and regenerative soil management. The remaining four brothers (Brock, Brooks, Brandt & myself) focused on installing sound business systems and finding consumers who shared our mission for regenerative foods.

While we haven’t always gotten along perfectly, we’ve preserved a spirit of trust and collaboration. We’ve always maintained a “disagree yet commit policy,” meaning it’s OK to disagree, but we still have to be willing to commit and move forward with a good attitude.

Those first several years were full of long days, and we worked nearly every weekend, tending livestock and delivering orders to nearby cities. We also had to find a way to survive on very little income, which was about $20,000 annually in those years. Thankfully, we had plenty of good food to eat, saving us on groceries, and we heated our homes with firewood all winter.

These early years were both exhilarating and frightening, yet it was a strong belief in what we were doing that kept us pushing forward.

From barely surviving to a thriving farm

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Fast-forward through 17 years of blood, sweat, and tears, I'm thankful to say that Seven Sons provides healthy careers for each of my brothers and our individual families. Even better, we are also surrounded by a team of 40+ amazing staff who share in our mission.

"Looking back, I believe it’s only because of God’s grace that our family held together through some traumatic times. It feels like God took a pile of ashes and allowed new growth to sprout and eventually thrive into the farm and team we have today."

Looking back, I believe it’s only because of God’s grace that our family held together through some traumatic times. It feels like God took a pile of ashes and allowed new growth to sprout and eventually thrive into the farm and team we have today.

Blake and I are both incredibly grateful to our spouses, Kim and Charis, who supported us and worked alongside us through this entire journey, especially those hard early years. We wouldn’t have made it without their unwavering support and sacrifice.

I am grateful for my parent’s support and willingness to make hard decisions and extreme sacrifices for something they believed in. This lesson will always stick with me.

Truly, our family is surrounded by unimaginable blessings of amazing staff, loyal and supportive customers, and a growing network of trusted farm partners.

The following poster hangs on the wall in our conference room as a reminder of what the last two decades required of us. I’m sure you can identify with this sentiment from your own journey through life.

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While each of us brothers still share and enjoy careers together, we’re now all grown up and live independent lives with families of our own. As of today, 14 grandchildren make up the next generation.

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Above: The next generation. My parents and all our grandchildren

The work of us brothers is now focused on sharing our farm’s story and implementing regenerative practices across 50+ family farms with whom we've partnered to help raise pasture-raised meats.

What started as a personal journey of health and regeneration for my mom has grown into a nationwide community of over 14,000 families who support our farm’s mission.

As an interesting side note, what many of our customers do not know is that Seven Sons has evolved into an ecosystem of ancillary businesses that help other aspiring regenerative farmers.

My brother Brice founded HenGear.com; a company that provides innovative poultry equipment to thousands of small hen flock operators.

My brother Brooks co-founded GrazeCart.com, a technology company that helps over 400 regenerative farms launch and grow food hubs across the United States and Canada. Together these farms provide over $70 million of regenerative foods to consumers annually.

Our manifesto to the future

While our farm's vision continues to grow beyond our farm in Roanoke, Indiana, our mission and who we are will never change.

We truly believe that farmers hold the ticket for transformative change and that when our nation's soils are healed, hospitals will begin to be emptied.

As farmers, we believe that the moment someone purchases food from our farm, we share a responsibility for your future health and well-being. This is why we believe food should never be adulterated or produced with toxic chemicals. Food should never make you sick; instead, food should be nourishing and life-giving.

We believe there will never be a food system of integrity unless we first have farmers of integrity. We feel strongly that farmers and food corporations should be transparent and that food labels shouldn't be misleading. This is why we commit to never using confusing marketing or labeling tricks to sell our products.

We believe there will never be a food system of integrity unless we first have farmers of integrity. We feel strongly that farmers and food corporations should be transparent and that food labels shouldn't be misleading. This is why we commit to never using confusing marketing or labeling tricks to sell our products.

And while industrial agriculture passes laws to keep people and cameras out, we commit to maintaining an open-door policy to the public so that anyone can ask to see any part of our farm.

We're not about trade secrets or keeping success to ourselves - we will remain committed to teaching and sharing regenerative practices with farms everywhere!

We are calling everyone to join our mission to change our world one bite at a time.

Never forget that you get to vote for a better food system three times a day.

Perhaps upon reading this, you would consider cooking a meal with your family and eating it together this week. And if you say grace, ask for food that will keep us and our planet healthy.

Let’s change our food system together!

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