Sometimes a journey may not be far from your home, but quite distant from a place you have ever considered.
About a month ago I visited Roy Ramey of Avalon Farm who owns about 37 acres in Lesage, not far from Huntington. He had some chickens so sells eggs and plans to sell chicken meat, recently got some hogs, has several goats and plans sometime soon to get some beef cattle. He will be one of the suppliers for the Wild Ramp when it opens soon.
Roy has his meat chickens fenced in a pen in a pasture, open to the ground below. He moves the contraption each day, positioning it on the pasture to new area. That way, the chickens can explore for their kind of yummies on fresh ground. and the pasture itself has plenty of time to recover and regrow. Roy supplements with some feed and it all seems to work well, but he said he had a problem. The Wild Ramp Market was not going to be open in time. His chickens needed to be processed before that.
I suggested he contact Chef Mike Bowe at Huntington Prime, as the chef makes an effort to use as much locally raised food as possible. Chef Mike has high standards and this is one of the best restaurants in town. Graham and I are proud to supply herbs for their kitchen and we have gotten to know the team there pretty well.
Late Saturday night Roy Ramey called me, very excited. Chef Mike said he would buy 10 chickens from him! I asked him when he was planning to deliver them and he said Monday. I then asked if he had prepared the chickens for delivery and Roy said he planned to process them Sunday afternoon.
Now, many of you are going to have THE typical reaction. I want you to pause and think for a second…..if you eat meat, you know intellectually that the stuff you buy in the plastic wrapped packages at the supermarket really came from a live animal at one time, right? You know that, don’t you? If not, we have a bigger issue and maybe need to require EVERYONE to go work on a farm at least one day of their life.
But okay, you know and maybe you just don’t like to think about it. Just for a moment follow my tale. (I promise no photos of blood and gore, although my readership may grow if I included some. LOL)
Raising an animal to provide healthy nutrition is a task many of the small farmers here in West Virginia and all over the country are pursuing. There are concerns about some of the foods we have been eating and the short and long term health issues they could be causing. (Even last week one of the headlines on Yahoo News that caught my eye was a nationally recognized maker of hotdogs uses some kind of “mystery meat” in their low fat dogs. There you are thinking you are making a healthy choice and it begs the question of what exactly you might be putting in your body.) For those people who want a healthier lifestyle, chosing to know their farmer is a natural step.
So, Roy needed 10 chickens processed and I volunteered and bless Graham for joining me. Roy’s friend Doug was also there but a few other people who had promised to help never showed up.
We all learned a lot….Roy had done this before but not since he was a kid so the set up took a while and next time will go easier. Doug’s expertise is broad and he often helps Roy, offering insights that produce results. Graham and I, needless to say, were neophytes. It took us about 5 hours to process the 10 birds.