The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has certified us as a poultry processor. This allows us to sell our organic chickens at farmers markets, restaurants and stores. The MDA came out, inspected our processing, and tested our wastewater and chilling process along with all of our documentation.
I cannot adequately describe how conflicted this feels. We accomplished something big but at what cost. I started writing this blog as a way of helping others that choose this path, purging my actions through explanation, and documenting our struggles, failures and possible successes as urbanites transitioning into organic farmers. As was previously stated we took on this challenge knowing failure had more weight on the scale then success.
We carefully planned what we would do, as a farm, and how we would go about growing healthy, safe food for our community. We had been growing for ourselves for twenty years so we felt confident (unjustifiably) that we could grow on a larger scale. Confidence is a fickle emotion and fleeting feeling. You know you are going to have setbacks, life is never perfect and neither are humans. Therefore, we understood that a certain amount of perseverance was necessary in order to sustain our trek towards our goals.
My wife and I have changed, no big shock there, we all change. However, this certification points to one of the most radical changes that have ever occurred in my life. In the city, you do not grow up killing things, unless you are a gangster. Killing was not part of my life, okay cockroaches and crickets’ different story. Taking a life was not part of our experience growing up.
I have documented here the pain and anguish we have suffered from all aspects of farming. Be it someone getting hurt, chickens perishing due to dogs and hawks, fruit and vegetable crop failures and not being economically sustainable. All aspects have served to make us stronger, our resolve more intense and our fortitude unyielding. However, I have changed in a way that now does not fit with the person I once was, or what I ever thought I would be.
Since starting the farm, I have lost loved ones, friends and animals dear to my heart. You are not supposed to be attached to your food. Nonetheless, I baby my corn and tomatoes the same way I baby our layers and our meat birds. There is this dichotomy wrapped in a paradigm (of what was and was not) that reflects the struggle I have with farming. It is an undertaking that makes you change your views about who you are and what you need to do in order to be sustainable. I am not talking about shades of gray or operating on the line of right and wrong. I am an ethical, moral, honest, law abiding citizen. I volunteer in my community, as well as, donating money to the Humane Society and other worthy causes. We give our spent layers to the soup kitchen so the last thing the chicken does is to nourish the less fortunate among us. The toll our endeavor exacts has been unexpected.
Nevertheless, I have changed in a way that any one who knew me would not expect. In farming, you have to do things that you may not be comfortable with. I can only speak for myself, but a part of my heart, emotions and feelings have taken a pummeling. When you routinely take the life of an animal that you have raised since its birth there is a certain distance that must be maintained in order to protect yourself. Which I find is impossible, yet I have to and there in lies the quandary. We are a humane farm, we will always be a humane farm but I struggle with the whole processing certification. Food is fruits, vegetables, seafood and animals and growing is like a roller coaster that never ends. No matter the intangible side, at least now, we are official.
Buy local: Tens of thousands of us are struggling to provide you with safe fresh alternatives. Take advantage!