This Barn has a Secret!



Inside this barn, there is a 12’x12’ room in a loft.

A room about the size of a bedroom, really, but with 30 beds, grow beds! It’s a food production room, the likes of which, you will not see at a typical alpaca ranch. It feeds the entire herd!

IMG_5123A food production room? What can grow there? In such a small space? Indeed, it’s a room that produces something really fresh, on a daily basis. 

IMG_5135It keeps the herd healthy, lowers our vet bills, eliminates grain-based pellet chows, and lowers our hay consumption by about 30-40%!

This alpaca knows what’s up there! Let’s go take a look!

IMG_5138This special room gets visited daily for 15 minutes. 

At first glance inside the door, you can already sense something is very different.

The room is brightly lit, and against one wall are 30 trays with something in them…the grow beds!  What is that?

11-27-12 Barley Fodder Production System 010

What THAT is, is Barley and it starts in the form of a grain, but through the miracle of sprouting, gets transformed into a delicious and nutritious micro-green!

75-100lbs of these micro-greens gets harvested, every, single, day!


About 5lbs of pre-soaked barley are spread into a specially designed grow bed: a flood-and-drain style grow tray.

There, it is automatically irrigated for a 9 day grow cycle.

Once the 9 days are up, the tray will be pulled from the shelf and 25-30lbs of fresh barley sprouts comes out!

Fresh food for alpacas!  Are you impressed yet? 



Here’s what a 6 month supply of barley looks like freshly stacked.

Unlike processed pellet chows, we can store up to a year supply of grain without it spoiling or molding. Pellets simply don’t have the shelf life of a whole grain.


With a fresh diet of barley microgreens, alpacas are getting a highly digestible foodstuff. 

Their health improves considerably.

At $.25 per pound, it currently costs us $3.75 per day to feed a herd of 20 animals.  Since hay consumption also drops, we save on our hay budget too. We also no longer buy pellets.


Our approach became popular these past 5 years!  A video of our fodder room chores started getting lots of views ( ).  We started receiving requests to speak about our experience.  We were happy to share!  As of 2017, over 150+ farms have installed our grow trays on their farms.   We made an impact on how others too can achieve success with sprouting!


Over 5+ years sprouting now, and we have had a great experience.  Our livestock operation is optimized and efficient as part and parcel of our overall permaculture approach to running a natural farm. 

The public, gets to participate too, any time they stay as guests in our yurts!  Pssst! That’s another secret! You can actually come stay at this guest ranch and “glamp” in a yurt!  You can play rancher as part of our morning farm chores, and get to see the Barley Fodder Room up close!

For all the old-pros out there who have sprouting going on at their farms, here’s a bonus for reading this far!  We put together a pictorial collage that shows you a strategy for dealing with any mold challenges you might have:  Fodder in the Summer with Poor Seed and Mold

Be sure to check out these other Fodder articles and videos on our blog! We also sell the grow trays we made famous with our flood and drain style approach for DIY sprouting:


Barley Fodder Grow Trays Now For Sale!

Barley Fodder Videos! Including our Fodder Room Walkthrough, (and bonus cute stuff too!)

From Seed to Feed in 8 days- Barley Fodder Sprouting Trials

Barley Fodder Sprouting Trials continued- New Flood and Drain Tray System Installed

Barley Fodder- From Trials to Production

Considerations On the Front End of Fodder- DIY or Buy

Fodder Growing- What molds may come

Fodder Production- Further tips for successful sprouting

BONUS!  Check out the photo album for some close-up shots of all aspects of our Fodder Room via our Facebook Page:

About David

Making manifest the change I want to see in the world through the hospitality of a humble little homestead campground with yurts and alpacas.
This entry was posted in Barley Fodder and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to This Barn has a Secret!

  1. Woody says:

    You are a busy Man, David…I love how you live and work!

  2. Genene says:

    Oh my stars! I’m so impressed and pretty much jealous 😉 I’ll be reading & watching everything of yours that I can find. Thank your for your inspiring work!

  3. gkelly says:

    I have recently started a flood and drain system at home after much study. I really like your site but there is one thing that puzzles me. I read that you are using a flood and drain system but in all of the pictures I have seen, it’s not connected that way. what I see is two connectors/values that both drain into a pvc pipe with a water supply hose clipped to the tray. I switched from a system that dripped water from above and drained; which seems like what you are doing. Could you resolve my confusion on this.

    • David says:

      In each tray there are two drains: the main drain, and a backup, overflow drain. For the most part, the water drains through the main drain. The overflow drain is positioned slightly higher in the tray; should the regular drain get backed up by the root mat causing a flood cycle to backup higher in the tray, the overflow drain will allow excess water to escape, rather than over the sides of the tray.

      The irrigation line is just a 1/4″ tube, with no emitters at the end. The irrigation pump pressurizing the lines sends a flow of water from the tube into the tray. Seed, backing up against the drain cap on the main drain causes the water to backup and establish a flood zone equally across the entirety of the tray, which is not tilted, but sits flat and level on the shelf, while still allowing water to drain. The design of the tray has lower drain channels surrounding raised bottoms sections. The channels lead to the further recessed main drain.

      Visit our Facebook page for a photo album entitled “Our Fodder Room” for close up pictures of the trays and irrigation.

  4. gkelly says:

    thank you responding and for your patience in my question. To be clear, i’m not questioning your results, they are evident. I’m just curious about the flood-and-drain system. I’ve seen quite a few of them and what they seem to have in common is the the water supply and main drain go through the same hose – draining through the pump and maybe through a filter first (which is what I do). Therefore the main ‘drain’ does not drain when there is water being supplied because of the positive pressure. Then once the pump is off then the drain cycle begins. The overflow drain being used only if, during that flood ‘cycle’ it raises the water level too high. From what I can see in your system, it will start draining immediately. Again, based on the pictures on your web site, this is what I see.

    • David says:

      Thanks for your questions.
      A bit of clarity about the main drain… when the irrigation starts flowing water through the irrigation tube that descends into the tray from above, it immediately starts to drain through the main drain.
      However, that drain has a slitted drain cap, and the grain backing up against the drain cap causes the water to drain at a slower rate than being introduced into the tray, thus, backing up and establishing a flood zone, while draining at the same time.
      So, no, the water supply is separate from the drain. In some flood and drain systems, they are pushing the water up through the drain, then stopping and letting it flow back out. That is not what occurs here. Water is draining at the same time the irrigation is turned on.
      Also, be sure to view the other videos on our channel that show our ‘Production Room’ versus our ‘Test Phase’ (which was set up different).

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