Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Chicken and the Egg

I had been a vegetarian for longer that I can remember. Recently, I started occasionally eating naturally raised poultry. My definition of naturally raised prominently includes the well-being of the birds. I figured that if I were going to eat animal products, then I should look them in the eye. To do this, I went to visit Rusty and his daughter at R & R Poultry Farm. R & R is a partnership between Mark Schaub from River Valley Poultry Farm and Rusty Rhodes from Rhodes Farm. They sell at the Fulton St. Farmers Market.

He keeps his breeding flock on his home property. Barred Rock Hens + Rhode Island Red Roosters = Black Star chickens that lay great eggs. The flocks reside at three different farms. I visited two recently – both on Amish Farms nearby.

The first had a large barn with laying areas on each long side and a feed trough in the middle. The chickens eat a feed purchased from the Amish along with what they find in the ample fields where they roam. Rusty does not over feed them with the packaged feed; they are encouraged to be outside finding their own food and fertilizing the property. In the winter, the barn has some artificial light to keep the birds laying eggs.

The laying areas are not the fluffy straw-filled scene that you see in Easter cards. They are made of wood and contain no straw. He does not want the birds to hang out in there, because they will damage or soil the eggs. The eggs have a natural bloom on them that is left on. It protects the shell (and therefore us) from bacteria.

The second farm is also on Amish property. Green house type structures house the birds. When I visited, there were chicks. Walking into the greenhouse with a lush carpet of new grass and cheeping chicks is like walking back in time to Spring. There is also a field waiting for the chicks as they grow and can tolerate the weather.

At another site, Rusty has twelve small pigs. They are rooting around a 5 acre plot of land cleaning out brush and turning the soil. His animals improve the land just by being who they are. There were half eaten pumpkins laying around the pen; Amish feed supplements their natural diet. Next year, an adjacent field will be planted with rutabagas and turnips to be used to feed the pigs.

I left feeling confident in the care of the food that I eat from R & R. Don't forget that the Fulton St. Farmers Market will be open on Saturdays this winter starting on Jan. 8th. Visit Mark and Rusty from 10:00 am - 1:00 pm.

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