Our County promotes a weekend each fall celebrating farms and farming. Frederick County holds Family Festival on the Farm. Family’s, that sign up ahead of time, get a CD with a map of all the participating farms and each farm has its own unique look, activities and practices.
Be it conventional or organic, farms are open on this weekend for the education of the public. It is government expenditures at its best. Our local government coordinates and markets the event and helps any farm that wants to participate.
It is an event that we have been involved in the last three years. However, our participation is unique, we pack up and go over to Nick's Organic and cook his organic beef on a cherry wood fire. We get to cook, promote our cooking classes, sell our other stuff and preach to the choir. Each year the crowd grows, questions become more in-depth, the stories of backyard escapades intensify and what people are doing still surprises me.
I had one of those re-affirming moments on the second day of the event; I know my views are somewhat anti-establishment in the farming community so I am often careful as to what I say and when. We are a humane farm and we keep our hens for four years. Even organic practices allow hens to be processed within two years of their life, which is their peak laying time. As I have exposed before this is a hard process for us. I guess I am chicken when it comes to processing them. I think they should get to live at least until they stop laying completely. Then we get them processed and take them to local soup kitchens.
The festival was winding down the last day of the event the farm manager, Nick and some of Nick's friends were standing around the grill. There were mostly farmers and some mechanics that had come to fix the picker on the combine, They were hanging around and eating sausages and hamburgers. I was out of my league; here are all these people that have spent their lives in the fields and on farms. I have always been leery of being called a farmer because of these people. In my eyes they are farmers, I am but a large gardener. Well, we were all standing around and the topic turned to chickens. Nick innocently asked me what I do with my spent layers, I thought a bit. I knew everyone around me has processed beef, pork, goats, lamb, chickens and turkeys. Squeamishness is not a feeling that is prevalent in the farming community.
Do I act tough in front of these people and say something that I think everyone would expect? Or on the other hand, should I tow the party line and admit we keep our layers for four years before we get them processed, and then take them to the soup kitchen. So, I said just that, “We are a humane farm and we keep our chickens (at this time I can feel my face flushing) until they stop laying and then we take them up to Berry Blossom for processing and then to the soup kitchen so their last act is to feed the less fortunate”. I expected jeering but from one to the other each passed on their admiration for that act. Who knows they might go back and say, I just met this nut that gives away his chickens. If so, who cares, if it inspires another person to do a similar act then great.
Either way I am glad I stayed true to our beliefs and ego be dammed. I am sure they are scratching their heads and asking how we make money, as do we. But in the end it us that have to live with our decisions and as I have said before we are in it for the health not the wealth.
Buy Local: Support a local farm so it can support you and your community in the future.