Down to Earth Farm is a sustainable family farm located in Liberty, North Carolina, offering AWA-certified poultry and eggs. The farm was started in 2009 by founders Joe Moore and his son, Aaron, and is situated on 30 acres of family land, carrying on a farming tradition passed down through several generations.
The Moores’ initially began farming to supply high-quality food for their families, but the father and son team have expanded the operations to include pastured chickens and eggs to satisfy the growing demand for locally sourced, high-welfare products. “We saw that our community was in need of high-quality, locally-sourced pastured meat products, so we decided to go into business to provide it,” Joe says. As he explains, the farm is continually evolving: “Our family’s farming background created the passion for this work, but we also strive to learn and work with professionals and other farmers in our community to better our operation – not only for our animals, but also for our customers.”
The Moores supplied all of their own labor to build and construct the buildings and specialty housing needed to raise pastured chickens. They manage the farm sustainably to help conserve precious natural resources and to preserve the viability of agricultural land. Key practices include management techniques to eliminate use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and utilizing high-quality fencing to allow proper animal rotation around the farm and ensure the best quality forage. The Moores were recently awarded an AWA Good Husbandry Grant to build a mobile processing unit for on-farm slaughter. This allows the Moores to ensure high welfare and consistency in production and processing.
The most important aspect of Down to Earth Farm’s production practices is using a breed of chicken developed specifically for pastured production. “Our chicken’s genetic stock is derived from the American and European old heritage breeds, which were developed in the early 1960’s to meet the highest standards of the French Label Rouge program,” Joe explains. “These chickens are a slower-growing breed, which allows them time to develop superior flavor, unlike the fast growing Cornish cross breeds used by industrial producers.” By using this breed, Joe says his flocks are far healthier and better adapted to thriving in a natural outdoor environment.
As Aaron explains, pasture-based management has significant benefits – not only for the chickens, but also for consumers: “We raise approximately 150 chickens per flock to ensure their health and safety, and are able to grow our flocks without antibiotics or other medications. We move the chicken shelters on the pastures every 24–48 hours, which ensure the birds have fresh ground to forage and a diverse insect diet. Moving the birds regularly also helps to eliminate the need for potentially harmful chemicals to control diseases and parasites that would otherwise build up if the chickens were kept in one area for too long. As a result, the meat produced from a truly pasture-raised chicken is a leaner, healthier, and more flavorful when compared to intensively-raised chicken. Flocks raised on pasture also have more room to move around, making them far less likely to cause harm to one another, which can be a strong fatality factor in indoor-raised poultry.”
Joe and Aaron sought AWA certification to distinguish their chicken and eggs in the marketplace, and to demonstrate their commitment to high-welfare production. “We are proud to be a part of an organization that encourages responsible animal husbandry and local family farms,” Joe explains. “We have always developed our farming practices with the welfare of our animals foremost in minds. Being able to display our involvement in AWA demonstrates our high standards of animal husbandry to our customers, as well as to other local farmers.”
The long-term goals at Down to Earth Farm are to expand production and make their products available to as many local consumers as possible. Joe and Aaron value local agriculture and want to help support their community by offering a healthy, affordable alternative to conventional poultry products. Further goals include engaging their local economy through future job creation and partnerships with other locally supported businesses.
AWA-certified eggs and chicken (whole birds and various cuts) from Down to Earth Farm are available at area farmers’ markets. For more information visit http://downtoearthfarming.com/ or join the farm on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/downtoearthfarming.