The Missing Ingredient
The predominant agricultural model of our age has made our food anonymous. We don’t know a lot about the life of the animals we are eating. This has contributed greatly to a disconnect between the life and health of the animals we eat and our own health, between their bodies and our bodies; a seemingly obvious relationship that is totally obscured in our eating experience today. Partaking of a healthy animal that has been given a wholesome life (provided with all the elements for good health and allowed to express their nature as creatures) is a clear benefit to the health of our bodies and our souls. This basic knowledge of the life and stewardship of the animals we are eating has been denied to eaters in the current agricultural system. The Industrialization and centralization of our agriculture has put us at arms length from any connection with our food. The supermarket is as close as we come to the farm and our innate desire to have knowledge about what we are eating is satisfied with images from advertising and packaging. We want to believe these pastoral images because it is our food, but these falsehoods do not satisfy but rather hide a lot of harsh truths about how our food is raised. This lack of true knowledge keeps us in ignorance, perpetuates poor husbandry; it diminishes our health, the health of our land, and the blessing of food.
Farmer /Author Wendell Berry said, “a significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes” (italics mine). This accurate consciousness is an ingredient that has long been missing from our meals, and maybe one of the most important ingredients in a really good meal. Many people are enjoying this consciousness again as they come to know their local farmers, visit local farms and learn about the lives of the creatures in their care. We once again have a choice and our choices become agricultural acts, supporting and encouraging the kind of farming we want to make part of our bodies and our land. With these acts we can begin to take back the blessing of food.
THE LIFE OF A CHICKEN
The life of our animals has been a priority at New Town Farms since we began in 1991. You are welcome to visit our farm and see first hand our animal husbandry. We want to give you an accurate consciousness of the life of our birds:
Our chickens are raised on pasture in movable pens to protect them from a host of predators. They are moved to fresh pasture twice daily to provide fresh grasses, insects, and a clean environment. They have fresh air, sunshine, exercise, and green matter; all the things we know are necessary for good health yet all the things denied an industrially raised chicken. They are allowed to be chickens roaming, eating greens, and scratching the ground for seeds and insects. With all the ingredients in place for a wholesome life our birds have no need for antibiotics or any medications.
Our chickens eat well, Moving to fresh pasture daily they have a healthy blend of grasses and broad leaf plants, seeds, and the myriad of insect life above the ground and below in their scratching zone. We supplement there forage with custom feed made with Certified Organic, Non -Gmo Grains, certified Organic Fish meal, Icelandic Kelp (for minerals), Vitamins, and Probiotics. Unfortunately Organically grown, Non Genetically Manipulated (or Non GMO) grains are now a rare commodity. Due to the short supply they are almost double the cost of genetically manipulated grains that now dominate the agricultural landscape. Providing Organically grown non-GMO feed for our birds is something we believe is very important for the health of the bird, our health, and the heatlh of agriculture. It adds significantly to the cost of production, but by purchasing these or other organically fed chickens you are bringing back the demand for these grains and changing what happens on the farm.
We have experimented with many breeds but are currently focused on breeds of French heritage. The breeding stock is imported from the regions of Burgundy and Brittany (France). The genetic stock is derived from the American and European old heritage breed of chicken and was developed in the early 1960’s to meet the highest standards of the French Label Rouge Free Range program. Strongly rooted French culinary traditions have worked to preserve heritage breeds from being wiped out by the industrial production breed. The French have preserved a legacy of breeding for flavorful birds that thrive in small scale, free- range systems. These breeds have not lost their foraging instincts and thus gather more nutrition and flavor from the pasture than the industrial breed. They are also slower growing which allows them time to develop more flavor (10 to 12 weeks compared to the 6 weeks birth to slaughter for the industrial breed).
Diversity and sustainability are also issues in our breed selection. As with most industrial animal production poultry farms in the US now rely on one breed of bird to the exclusion of all other breeds and the extinction of many. Bred to grow extremely fast the industrial breed is too obese to navigate natural breeding when it is old enough to reproduce and is not a breed that can be sustained naturally. The choice of heritage breeds for flavor and nutrition is also in the interest of diversity and sustainability. These genetics are important to keep with us as we rebuild sustainable farming systems and add local character back to regional cuisines.
All of our poultry is processed on farm. Our birds are in our care and on the farm throughout their lives. It is important for us to participate in this final stage of animal husbandry to insure it is carried out humanely and respectfully, honoring the life of the creature and it’s sacrifice for our nourishment. On farm processing also allows us to be in control of sanitation throughout the butchering and packaging process. We have processed chickens and turkeys on farm since 1994, in 2010 we received a grant from the Rural Advancement Fund International to build an on-farm poultry processing facility (for video click here) to accommodate our growing pastured poultry operation.
Beside full circle husbandry, on farm butchering is also a logistical and economic necessity for many small farmers. The vertical integration of factory poultry farms and their complete domination of poultry farming in our country has meant the demise of the small scale local processor. As of 2010 there was only one processor left in the state of NC where a small independent poultry farmer could take his flocks for processing. Fortunately the NC Department of Agriculture has recognized the growing need for on farm processing and has established regulations and an inspection process to ensure legality and safety of on farm processing.
On farm butchered, pasture raised birds have been shown to have significantly less bacterial counts than factory farm birds. A researcher at NC State has recently shown that bacteria found on farm butchered, pasture raised birds did not contain the antibiotic resistant strains found on chicken coming out of the industrial system.
We process our pastured chickens every two weeks during the season. They are sold whole fresh or frozen. They can be purchased at our stand at the Matthews Community Farmers Market, New Town Farms, or enjoyed at several local restaurants. We also raise Thanksgiving Turkeys that we process the week of Thanksgiving. For Fresh Chicken and Thanksgiving Turkey notices please get on our mailing list
© 2014 Samuel Ellis Koenigsberg
Growing vegetables organically is how we began in 1991 and remains the heart of our work at New Town Farms. We grow and direct market a wide variety of vegetables spring, summer, fall, and winter on our 5 acres of growing fields and in our movable high tunnels. Through soil building methods such as composting, cover cropping, mulching, and the addition of natural amendments like rock powders and micronutrients, we work to facilitate a rich, healthy and balanced living soil as a basis for nutrient dense, full flavored vegetables. We then work to preserve the fullness of flavor and nutrition by harvesting the day of delivery or the day before market.
Due to our small scale we are able to give great care and attention to our soils; providing them the care and needed inputs to produce a much different vegetable than is possible on an industrial scale. Our direct and local only marketing enables us to get the vegetable to you while still full of life, flavor, and nutrition. It is a craftsman model; a family farmer on his beloved land seeking to grow the best food he can for the enjoyment and health of his family and neighbors.
Ossabaw Island Hogs
The Ossabaw Island Hogs are descendants of the famous Spanish Iberico hogs renowned for the most prized cured hams in the world-Jamón Ibérico. They were brought to Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia in the 1500's when Hernando De soto came to the American South. They remained pure on the island for years developing new characteristics as they adapted for survival on the barrier island; one being extremely high Omega 3's in their fat. They maintained the special meat quality of the Iberico hog and frequently win taste competitions. These pigs were nearing extinction due to an effort on Ossabaw island to eradicate them, but were brought to the mainland to be preserved for their distinct qualities. They are currently being kept and raised by a handful of small farmers throughout the country. To learn more see their Bio
New Town Farms maintains a small breeding herd of pure bread Ossabaw Island Hogs in our forestland. We butcher just a few every year which we sell to local chefs and at The Matthews Community Farmer's Market.
Free Range Thanksgiving Turkeys
Since 1995 we have raised a small flock of Thanksgiving turkeys on our pastures (more information here). We continue this tradition today raising about 200 Broad Breasted White turkeys on green grasses and Certified Organic Feed. Every fall we process the flock on the farm the Monday of Thanksgiving week. You can pick up your reserved fresh (not frozen) turkey on November 25-26 on the Farm or at The Matthews Community Farmer's Market.
To check availability and pricing, or reserve a Thanksgiving turkey please visit our Store to make a deposit. We will contact you with confirmation, turkey updates, and pick up details through email.
Community Supported Agriculture
We began this program in 1992. A CSA is a relationship between community families and the farm, whereby families or individuals purchase a "share" of the harvest for the year and receive weekly vegetable deliveries for the spring and summer seasons. It is usually enough food to meet the vegetable needs for a family of four to five. We grow over 75 varieties of vegetables and strive for the largest assortment possible each week. The cost is $760 for around 20 weeks of deliveries from the spring and summer garden. We do not currently offer a fall share. The harvest season runs late April thru August. You may pick your share up at the farm or at several pick up points throughout the Charlotte area. Due to the scale of our farm, we can only serve about 50 families each year. If you would like to be on our waiting list for next season contact us by email and we will add you to our list . We finalize membership by the end of February for the following spring and summer season.
We held our first farm dinner in 2006, these dinners were a natural outgrowth of working with chefs in our region, and our mission to help educate people on the origins of their food. Believing that many of our agricultural, environmental, food, and health woes stem from our dislocation from the land and the work of farming, it has been our purpose to educate as a part of helping to heal this divide. Early on at New Town Farms we saw great value in a plate of well farmed, well prepared local food as one of the best educational windows back to matters of land, soil, animal husbandry, and health. In recent years thoughtful chefs and farmers have been among those on the front lines in this important work, and it has changed the way we eat. As Wendell Berry famously said, "eating is an agriculture act". When people make enlightened food choices it has agricultural implications that work to better care for the gift of this land that sustains us all. And what more pleasurable way to make these connections than to enjoy a well farmed meal, lovingly prepared, in the very place from which the food was brought forth. At heart these are beautiful times to come together with friends and family to enjoy and celebrate these blessings.
We hold on-farm dinners a few times during the growing season. To receive email notification sign up on our contact page.