The production of food, fiber or other plant/animal products using farming techniques that protect the environment,
public health, human communities, and animal welfare.
The beginning of this week found me recovering from an amazing weekend in Roanoke, helping to teach animal shelter staff and volunteers how to use their cameras in a more professional way to photograph animals in their care (I’ll share more about that adventure sometime next week.) but needless to say, Monday hit early. No rest for the weary as my mother says, so out the door I went… cameras in hand to visit some near and dear friends of mine who own and run a farm in Madison County, NC called Special Stock Farms. They specialize in chickens. Yup – you read that right. CHICKENS! As an Arizona desert girl, I never really got the chance to grow up around chickens so it was an absolute delight to visit and learn more about these creatures.
Just a side note for you, dear readers: Special Stock Farm is a sustainable farm that not only produces eggs but they also provide meat. I have debated for a week on how I would present this information to you all knowing that a portion of you are vegetarians and vegans. I do not wish to stir up any heated debates on the ethics of plants vs meat so I humbly ask that you look at this from a photographer’s point of view. We all have our personal reasons for the food choices we make. I respect your right to make that choice and will defend it till my last breath. I also love and support ethical, sustainable farms who need to put food on their tables and make a living supporting themselves. I am an omnivore and therefore do eat meat and like so many people I know, want to know exactly where my food comes from. Special Stock Farm has a wholesome, working relationship with their environment and the animals in their charge. They care for their livestock with unyielding dedication to making sure animal welfare comes first. They are the first to be in the barn when it turns cold and they are the first to find a way to cool the animals off when it’s too hot. Special Stock Farm understands that throughout the lifespan of each animal on their farm, the animal just wants to live peacefully… and that is exactly what they provide: a safe place to run free range and be happy. I think you’ll see what I mean when you see the photos. By the way, the chickens that you see in my portraits are all for egg laying. To reach out to Special Stock Farm for farm fresh eggs, chicken or any of their other meats available – please contact them via their Facebook page here: Special Stock Farm Facebook page
As soon as you drive through the gate, you are greeted by two very loyal farm hands who oversee the entire operation: Izzy and Owen.
They know who is supposed to be visiting and who shouldn’t….always at the ready to chase off the foxes and coyotes.
Next you’ll encounter the ferocious kittens.
The next thing you’ll notice is that there really isn’t a single caged chicken on the entire farm…but they do have enormous coops for roosting at night.
I caught this big guy napping…
I was then greeted by the very friendly goats. While I was photographing Jack, the donkey here – the goats were were trying to rub my shoulder. It made trying to photograph them a bit challenging!I think the highlight of my visit was meeting Miss Petunia. I don’t think I was quite prepared for her size.
She has a nest and likes to feather it with things found around the farm. I wonder if she thinks that she’s part chicken…maybe a 900 pound bird?
Even the tiniest creatures have a place on this farm. The brown lump on the grass is a Preying Mantis egg case. This case contains hundreds of voracious pest-eating preying mantis. These babies do more to control the spread of harmful insects than any insecticide you could ever use.
As you can see, this farm has a wonderful symbiotic relationship with the earth and they respect all in their care.
Here is a wonderful bit of background on Special Stock Farm from Trish Harwood, owner and caretaker of the farm:
“Special Stock Farms is a privately owned 6 acre farm, nestled in the heart of Madison County. Owners Trish and Jeremie Harwood found their calling when they bought the property in 2007. In addition to Owen, our farm dog, and his helper Izzie, we also have goats, a horse, a pig, chickens, ducks, cats and a spoiled donkey named Jack. All of our animals are humanely treated and naturally fed. Fresh eggs are collected daily, and prepared for sale. Meanwhile, our chickens have the run of the farm, roaming as they please within our fenced acreage. Our meat birds live out their lives happily exploring the property by day and resting in their spacious coops at night. We pride ourselves on our farm-to-table poultry and egg production and provide both for sale locally. Life here at Special Stock Farms is simple and that’s the way we like it. We care for our animals with love and compassion and are thankful for the sustenance they provide for us.”
Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to take another look at sustainable agriculture in your area. Farms like this are becoming more and more rare, and we so desperately need to re-establish our connection to the earth. There are things we can do to help reconnect our roots, though. Maybe think about keeping back yard chickens for fresh eggs? Maybe teach your children how important it is to know where their food comes from? Maybe support your local farms and purchase their wares? I could go on, but you get the idea.
So – that’s all for this week. Next week’s feature will be Last Penny Farm Alpacas in Weaverville, NC. Have a great weekend everyone!