Why did we start our family farm?
Updated: Nov 17, 2021
The following is a post from OrgaNick Pastures co-owner Nick Westby. In 2018, Nick and his then-fiancé Holly Hornback started OrgaNick Pastures in Rio, Wisconsin.
FROM THE PASTURES -- When I talk to grocery store managers, they often ask me why I got started in the industry at such a young age.
They don’t expect Holly and me to own OrgaNick Pastures as a pair of 25-year-olds. The simple answer to why is that people love to eat eggs and love to support family farmers, so, as long as we are producing eggs and we are a family farm, we’ll continue to survive as a company.
The deeper answer is because the more time we spent around chickens at the various farms we worked at while we were dating, the more we realized how chickens live a curious and creative life. We want our farm to stand out as a farm prioritizing the well-being of the hens. Allowing hens to live on a pasture is a no-brainer. So, each of our hens have 108 square feet of pasture to roam around on our farm. (According to Google, the average child's bedroom in the United States is about 110 square feet; do with that information what you will.)
In a complete contrast from our farm, most chickens in the United States live in cages within a barn. And the barn ultimately serves as a bigger cage to store chickens. That's right, don’t let a “cage-free” gimmick on a label fool you. When a brand says it is “cage-free” that means the chickens trade their cage on a shelf to hang out together on the floor of the barn and rarely see the light of day -- I say rarely because some of those farms are kind enough to put windows in for the hens.
Small, family farms know this when they farm any of their animals. I’ve spoken with cattle farmers who resent the way their farms are described by people who are trying to refer to massive corporate farms. I understand the grievance because I wouldn’t want our chicken farm to be characterized with the chicken farms that have hundreds of thousands of birds in a single barn or the farms claiming to be pasture-raised when none of their pasture has been picked over by constant pecking.
So, why do we do this? We do this because we want the animals making our meal possible to be treated with dignity and respect, so who better to make sure that happens than us.
We’re not the first to be conscious of the well-being of the animals on our farm and we won’t be the last. But we’re proud to do it and proud to have you along with us ensuring a more dignified food supply is possible.