As a result of the demand for our pasture-raised eggs and the loss of about a dozen chicks because of cold weather, I decided to call some farmers in the area to see if we could buy 30 to 40 rare breed birds.
Thanks to our Farmer Training Initiative, we have several new farmers in the area. When I call Cindy, a graduate of our Farm Beginnings® program, she says she may have a few rare breed hens to sell, since she has been incubating her eggs to make sure they are fertile. She provides eggs to local schools so the students can incubate them, watch them hatch, and get the same thrill she experienced as a kid. She tells me it was this thrill that ultimately led her into farming.
Since Im looking for 30 or 40 birds, and she only has 20, Cindy recommends I call her neighbor, who runs a conventional egg operation and sells her chickens once their laying rates drop off after the first year. I ponder the implications of buying commercial chickens. Perhaps we can introduce them to the good life outside on pasture. When I tell the neighbor that we would put these birds on pasture and rotate them across our open fields, she bluntly warns me: These birds are used to cagesI dont think theyll know what to do on pasture. They may not survive. Thanks for your time, I tell her, I think I better pass.
Im picking up Cindys 20 rare breed chicks tomorrow.
The local food system being built by Cindy and other new small farmers stands in stark contrast to the conventional food system. Chickens were created to walk about and feed on pasture, not to sit and lay in cages. This story is just one small reminder of why we do what we doand why I am grateful to all of those who support the work of the Learning Center!
May 15, a group of homeschoolers from suburban Chicago arrived at the farm just as our last pregnant doe was in the final stages of labor. The children were rapt and respectful as the lovely Princess Dawn was born (yes, we usually let visiting groups name any goats born under their watch).
Earlier in the month, we were thrilled to accept our first-ever financial support from United Way. The three-year grant from United Way of Rock River Valley will support our Roots & Wings Youth Leadership and Gardening program in Rockford.
from the June 6-12, 2007, issue