Alta farmers will offer workshop
This weekend, attendees at Slow Food in the Tetons’ Farm to Fork Festival in Jackson will see some familiar faces.
Full Circle Farm and Cosmic Apple will both have booths at Saturday’s farmers market, the final one of the season, and In Season Baking Co will be slinging pizza with toppings from Cosmic Apple, Winter Winds Farm, and Morning Dew Mushrooms. And on Saturday afternoon, Andy and Sue Heffron of Purely By Chance Farm in Alta will give a free workshop entitled “A Story of a Small Farm,” where they’ll share the background of their little poultry operation in the Teton foothills.
Around six years ago, the Heffrons’ grandson Chance was experiencing health issues, and his doctor recommended that his family examine his food system.
“Kids are the canaries in the coal mines,” Sue said. “They’re showing us what’s wrong with the food system these days.”
The Heffrons decided to start growing nutrient-dense food in a personal garden in order to opt out of the industrial food system, and they started raising a small flock of laying chickens on their Bustle Creek property. Friends began asking how to buy meat birds and eggs, and that’s how Purely By Chance Farm came to be.
The broiler birds and turkeys spend their days in little mobile A-frames, eating bugs and seeds, disturbing the earth, and defecating, while the laying chickens bustle around their decadent Cluckingham Palace roost. The birds’ activities leave the soil fertile and in the spring the pasture grasses grow chest high as a result.
The Wyoming Food Freedom Act allows the Heffrons to process their own poultry at home and sell directly to consumers, although their pigs still have to go to a USDA processing facility in Rigby. Sue and Andy can process between 20 and 30 birds in a morning. They catch them, quickly dispatch them with a prayer of thanks, pluck them, and break down the carcasses for sale.
“The birds only have one bad day in their whole lives, when they’re processed,” Sue said. And they taste like it; Sue said the difference is apparent in the meat and eggs. “Some people say they’ve tasted a better bird.”
With the level of demand and with the limitations set by the Food Freedom Act (small farms can only process up to 1,000 birds per year), Purely By Chance has already sold out of its birds for the season, but still has some pork sausage, ground chicken and turkey, and preserves like zucchini relish, jam, and pesto for sale.
Sue and Andy never imagined they’d spend their days farming, but they’ve found that they’re pretty good at it, and they keep experimenting to become more proficient. That’s why they want to share their experiences and resources with people who are considering starting a farm.
“We’re hoping to nurture more farmers in Wyoming,” Sue said. “The food system has gotten scary and we need small farmers to bring it back.”
Their goal is to sell food within the community to friends, family, and neighbors, and they welcome visitors to their little farm, saying that they want people to see what respectful small-scale agriculture looks like. Visit purelybychance.com for information on farm tours and go to tetonslowfood.org/events/ for tickets to the Farm to Fork Festival.