Two years ago, we bought a farm. Neither of us grew up on a farm or had any practical life experience raising animals or farming. My grandaddy was a farmer by trade and as a kid, I watched him sweat and scratch to make a living. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy and that the odds are not in favor of small farmers. But we are dreamers and thanks to mom and dad, we are believers in the power of positive thinking, prayers and hard work. We had saved up enough money to remodel the house, build some initial infrastructure and take some time to figure out what we wanted to do. Our dream was to scrape by, doing the work ourselves, until we could start generating some income. This month, we turned our first real profit. During the first year, we tried lots of new things…..making crafts along with soaps and bath products, raising chickens, pigs, rabbits, turkeys, goats and even meal worms. We thought we might want to be market gardeners so we put in a huge garden last summer. We built buildings, remodeled the house, renovated outbuildings. We failed and we succeeded. We fell in love with some things and we found that there are some things we just don’t want to do. It took us about a year to figure out what we wanted to raise. In January, we prayerfully made the decision that we were going to be chicken farmers. We had researched different methods of raising the birds and worked through the financials. It was a giant risk. We had big investments to make. We had to build a commercial brooder, buy a 20 x 50 schooner, source feed and baby chicks, buy a grain bin and invest in a tractor. We are still working to update our electrical and freezer infrastructure to support our needs. Ultimately, we decided on the pasture-raised approach because we believe that animals should be treated with dignity and respect every day of their lives. We also believe in the regeneration of the land and that it is our responsibility to leave this little slice of earth better than we found it. We believe that God made chickens to eat bugs and grass. We do this full time and everytime we get an order, we are humbled that our customers spend their hard earned money to buy our products….even though it may cost a little more. We try to share our daily life on the farm so people can see how we raise our animals. We believe in transparency and feel strongly about our responsibility to help educate about how our animals are raised. Since we launched our delivery service last month, we have gotten a few questions about why it costs more to buy pasture-raised products. So in the spirit of transparency, we wanted to share a few details about our methods and what you’re paying for when you buy from Forevermost Farms.
1. We raise small batches of chicken (500-700 at a time) because we believe in caring for the welfare of each chicken. We hand feed and water the birds 2-3 times per day. And as silly as it sounds, we talk to them all along the way. I literally tell them I love them every single day. That may sound silly but we believe that happy chickens taste better and it’s one more way we can transfer our love of this land and these animals to our customers that pay our bills.
2. We use high quality non-GMO feed that we have to pay between $250 and $800 each month, on top of the feed cost to transport it 170 miles to our farm. The feed costs more than traditional feed because it is non-GMO. Non-GMO simply means that the feed has not been genetically modified. It is made from natural food sources and specially formulated to ensure the healthy growth of the birds.
3. Our chickens are kept in a brooder room for 2-3 weeks while they require regulated temps. Then they are moved to our pasture where they are moved to fresh grass every day. You can see a video of this process on our Facebook page. They are able to forage bugs and other goodies the way nature intended. We hand feed and water them twice per day. The commercial chicken at the grocery store is typically raised in large chicken houses where the birds are not kept in natural living conditions and in many cases, they are fed hormones or other chemicals to promote fast growth and support those living conditions.
4. We transport our birds to a USDA processing facility in Clinton, Arkansas where the birds are processed humanely and safely. There are only two USDA chicken processors in our area and they are typically booked a year in advance. USDA certification is important because the processor is required to go through a multi-step process to freeze the chicken and ensure safe food handling. This costs $3-5 per bird to process the chickens.
5. We deliver to your front door and typically leave your chicken in a cooler that you provide. We felt this was the most earth-friendly packaging option. We strive to provide quality products in a convenient manner to our customers.
6. We have heard feedback from our customers that the taste is just better and we can vouch for that since we eat our chicken several times each week.
Our hard costs are more than $11/bird. That doesn’t count any capital expenditures, water, electricity, shavings, building improvements or gas. It doesn’t factor in 2 full-time people (that’s me and Steve) and one part-time (our teenager) that work 6-12 hours a day….every single day. There are no holidays or weekends around here. For at least half the year, we can’t even leave the farm for more than a few hours at a time. That is not a complaint. We are grateful for the work.
We are big believers in transparency and love being able to share our journey so that our customers know where their food comes from. Frankly, we could make more money and faster with less work using the more commercial methods but we have intentionally decided to take this approach. Some call it antiquated and some call it modern. We call it our job. We are proud of our birds and honored that people spend their hard earned money to do business with us.
We are humbled that this year our chicken will provide almost 42,000 meals for our customers and other clients we serve. We are also growing pigs and turkeys which will provide another 11,000 meals. It’s almost overwhelming to think about that….that the people we serve are sitting around their dining room tables, at their TV tray tables, at their family holiday meals saying grace over food that we raised. We don’t take that responsibility lightly and we are honored that you are affording us the ability to continue living this life here at Forevermost Farms. Thanks for supporting us through your positive comments, your encouragement and your pocket books. It matters to us and we are thankful for you.