28 December 2011

Farm to Plate: Part II

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, when many Portlanders were still lost in the haze of leftover turkey sandwiches, a trio of Portland Farmers Market staffers hit the road for a one of a kind experience: a stewing hen harvest day at Persephone Farm.  We invite you to follow their adventure through a series of posts over the next few days that capture the reality and intensity of life on the farm and the reverence that comes with butchering your own dinner.

Farm to Plate: Part II

By Anna Curtin, Amber Holland and Nicki Passerella

Jeff Falen greets the group

Once the group of thirty was assembled and introduced, Jeff addressed everyone with some thoughts to set the tone for the day. Our collection of neighbors, former farm staffers, market shoppers, curious eaters, and farm friends listened as Jeff talked about the intent behind the second annual hen harvest, that of building a connection with our food source.

Jeff gave thanks for the contributions of the chickens we would cull that day, noting how they play a role in the ongoing health and productivity of the farm, in addition to providing enjoyment for those who tend them. Jeff pointed out the reality that life feeds life, a cycle that is illustrated to an extent by the damage to vegetables when they are harvested and consumed.

This sequence is made much more visceral by culling chickens who have outlived their egg laying days and whose livelihoods are no longer in balance with the resources it takes to keep them alive on the farm. We were encouraged to engage with the harvest on whatever level we felt comfortable, from simply observing the process to executing each step along the way. With that support, the work got underway.

Persephone Farm's mobile chicken coop

Elanor, star chicken wrangler, and a few volunteers took responsibility for collecting the first group of 8 chickens.  (Did you know that many chicken farmers pick a different color/breed each time a new flock is added to the farm?)  A couple of red chickens from another group had accidently found themselves among the 90+ Black Australorp birds that were being “retired” from the egg laying business and graduating to stew hens.  We knew to leave the red chickens alone as they were a full year younger and still regularly laying.

To be continued…