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OUR FARM: Oak Meadows Farm

Apr 4th, 2016 | Category: Community

by David Whittaker

Our family has long had a connection with the land. My great-grandfather was a landscape architect, my grandfather operated a rare fruit nursery in California and traveled the world studying new strains of fruit trees, and my father had an avocado ranch in California and for a time, grew rare fruits here in the northwest. My interest has been more with raising livestock and poultry, but in a way that nourishes the land rather than depleting it.

David Whittaker (top) and lamb at his family’s 10-acre farm outside of Ferndale. He started raising poultry as a teenager. COURTESY PHOTOS

David Whittaker (top) and lamb at his family’s 10-acre farm outside of Ferndale. He started raising poultry as a teenager. COURTESY PHOTOS

My interest in raising poultry began when I was 13. We were driving by a local feed store in the spring, and one couldn’t but help notice the “Chick Days” sign. While admiring the baby chicks and ducklings, the wheels began turning: How could I talk my folks in getting ducklings? The best argument was that these cute little bundles of fluff could actually make me some money when they were old enough to lay eggs. My parents bought the argument and off I went into the world of raising poultry. Selling duck eggs was an endeavor that never did pay for itself, but it did teach me a lot about raising birds and about responsibility.

A few years later I saw a movie that forever changed the way I look at food, farming, and the way we eat. The movie was Food Inc. It opened my eyes to what commercial agriculture in the US looks like and the problems that have developed over the years with commercial production. The film also revealed methods of growing food that are healthy for the land, healthy for the animals, and healthy for the consumer. Perhaps most importantly, the film introduced me to the farming methods of Joel Salatin and Polyface Farm and the concept of pastured animal production.

My folks have always been very supportive of my efforts, and have been involved with the farm since day one. My dad has carpentry skills and has helped in the creation of our chicken and turkey tractors, egg mobile, numerous coops, and other building projects. Mom has often been my P.R. person, answering phones, writing up brochures, and helping with the multitude of paperwork that is involved with starting a farm and maintaining the needed records.

Reading about and experimenting with poultry raising shaped me as a person as I went through my teen years. I was greatly influenced by the writings and farming methods of Joel Salatin, and have also developed my own ideas as to how to raise healthy birds in a way that is good for the animals and environment. Of course, being so careful with what goes into my birds has also made me very aware as to what we, as humans, are eating, and the condition of our food supply in general.   poultry Oak meadows web

Knowing that I am providing a quality product that has been raised in a healthy manner brings a lot of satisfaction. The most fun, however, comes when spring arrives and new life is popping up all over the farm, from the baby chicks hatching in the incubator, to the new lambs butting heads with each other out in the pasture. On the other hand, the hardest part is dealing with the occasional loss of an animal and battling with Mother Nature and the fairly frequent windstorms she sends our way.

This year we are offering pastured, organic-fed broiler chickens — both ranger type and Cornish. We are also selling pastured, organic-fed chicken and duck eggs, organic-fed quail eggs, quail meat, pastured organic-fed turkey, and grass-fed and finished lamb. We do sell right off the farm, but are also seeing our sales base grow through the Puget Sound Food Hub and Sound Harvest Delivery.

A new venture for us this year will be a partnership with Growing Washington to raise broiler chickens which will be sold through their CSA program and also at farmers’ markets throughout the region. This is very exciting as it will grow our yearly output of broilers from around 500 per year to about 2,000.

David Whittaker meeting Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farm, at the Mother Earth News Fair in 2013. COURTESY PHOTO

David Whittaker meeting Joel Salatin, of Polyface Farm, at the Mother Earth News Fair in 2013. COURTESY PHOTO

Some of the funny experiences we’ve had with the farm have been the interesting things people ask for, such as the Canadian caller who requested 1,000 pounds of chicken feet. We also received a request from Korea for 80 metric tons of organic chicken parts! That would have translated into about 44,000 chickens – a real challenge to come up with on a 10-acre farm! And then there was the person who wanted chicken shipped to Ohio to feed their Bengal cats. We got a chuckle out of that one as well.

 

For more information

Oak Meadows Farm is a 10-acre family farm located just outside the city of Ferndale. The farm is operated by David Whittaker, a Whatcom County born and raised teenager, who is devoted to raising happy and healthy poultry and livestock in a sustainable manner that benefits both the land and the animals. Visit the farm website at www.oakmeadowsfarm.weebly.com, and follow their Facebook and Instagram pages.

 

Published in the April 2016 issue of Grow Northwest

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