Finding the Right Market
Two years ago, Angela Faughtenberry lived in Fort Worth, Texas, raising seven children while her husband Jonathan worked as a civil engineer. Thinking back to her childhood experience on her uncle’s farm, the couple decided to buy farmland land in Oklahoma. Land in Oklahoma is generally less expensive than most places, so the location afforded them the opportunity to pursue her dream of farming. They subsequently purchased 40 acres in Adair, Okla., where Angela now works and runs a progressive farm named 413 Farm.
Angela became acquainted with the work of Joel Salatin of Virginia, who raises livestock using holistic management methods of animal husbandry, a number of years ago. While all farmers need to be stewards of the land if they are to be successful, Joel’s vision of stewardship involves restorative farming practices that enhance natural farming processes with the newest technology and to produce the healthiest food possible.
“Joel doesn’t write a how-to book after 10 or even 20 years of experience,” Angela said. “His book on chickens was after 30 years of work with them, and he feels that 20 years of experience with pigs is not enough to write a book yet.”
Angela raises broiler chickens, laying hens, pigs, calves, fall turkeys and sheep. Her 11-year-old daughter, Mariah, raises ducks, tends to the garden, and sells both duck eggs and produce along with her mom’s products at the farmers market in Tulsa.
“Mariah’s love of gardening does not come from any family member. It is just something she is passionate about so we built raised beds for her,” Angela said. “Right now the ducks are in the garden area eating weeds and are protected from hawks by a goose. When that job is done, they will be free range like the rest of our animals.”
Broilers account for a large part of Angela’s farm revenue. Angela tested several hatcheries and now buys day old chicks from the Schlecht Hatchery in Iowa because it had the lowest mortality rate and the healthiest birds. She purchases a 300-bird flock 12 to 15 times per year and puts the chicks in a brooder kept at just under 90 degrees for the first week. Then the temperature is slowly decreased to harden them so that they can survive in temperatures as low as 30 degrees. During this initial three weeks, chickens are fed a no soy, non-GMO starter feed and given sand as grit to help them digest grain and promote weight gain. The chickens take eight weeks to attain a harvest carcass weight of 5 pounds and during that time they are fed a similar grower feed and kept in Salatin shelters, the technology part of her system. The shelters are square, partially covered pens on wheels. They are moved one pen width daily to new pasture.
The natural farming processes that Angela practices have been tested by the American Pasture Poultry Producer Association (APPPA) against industrial free-range chickens identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as free range and organic birds. The results are convincing.
Typical Western diets are excessively high in omega-6 and low in omega-3. Her birds tested at a ratio of 3:1 (omega 6: omega-3) as compared to industrial birds at 23:1. This ratio leads to better brain health and fewer issues with many conditions such as Parkinson’s, heart disease and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, while increasing auto immune system strength against cardiovascular disease, cancer and other problems. Industrial birds have only a trace of vitamin D3 while her birds have 17 IUS per 100 grams because they are in the sunshine much of the time. Vitamin E content is more than 400 percent greater than in industrial birds.
Chicken flocks are sometimes sold out, even before they reach the farmers market. They are purchased by a Tulsa restaurant named Chimera and also Edible Tulsa, which is a local magazine whose publisher, Barry Jarvis, is a chef and purchasers her chicken, eggs, lamb and, most recently, pork for private benefit dinners.
“When in a niche market, it’s important for me to know where I stand in contrast to industrial organics,” Angela said. “Consumers tend to buy into marketing strategies, even though a clear difference in nutrition density exists in true pasture, organic birds.”
Angela also produces 30 dozen eggs per week in her laying operation, a crucial part of her farm plan. The hens sanitize the pasture by scratching the cow patties, and eating fly larva and other insects, thereby eliminating the need for chemicals.
Angela also raises 20-pound piglets in approximately eight months to a harvest weight of 350 pounds. They are rotationally raised in groups of 10 in the 12-acre wooded area of the farm. She moves them every 12 days to compensate for parasite cycles with chickens performing their job of sanitizing the acreage. Rotations occur on a long-term plan so undergrowth has a chance to regenerate. The pigs are also raised on a no soy, non-GMO diet from Thayer Feed in Kansas.
“The pig breed doesn’t matter much whether Hampshire, Yorkshire or Duroc,” Angela said. “Next time, I think I’m going to try a crossbreed.”
Because the farm is so new, sheep and cattle are in the beginning stages of being developed.
“Our goal is to purchase more land and feed 500 families a month,” Angela explained. “For now I am increasing business by offering home delivery to Dallas where I plan to expand my farmers’ market presence as well as delivering to Oklahoma City and Tulsa.”