Molly Nakahara, Paul Glowaski and Cooper Funk first met as members of the 2006 apprenticeship class at University of California Santa Cruz’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. They quickly learned that they all shared a common vision and began talking about what they called “Dream Farm” – a farm that would not only feed people sustainably, but also provide education and training.
In the years between their apprenticeship and their acquisition of 30 acres in Chicago Park, CA, the three continued their work in sustainable agriculture. Molly worked as a garden and nutrition educator in Hayward, CA, while Paul worked at the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz, CA. Cooper worked as a carpenter and, along with Paul, founded Urban Eggs, a backyard poultry consulting business.
But in 2010, “Dream Farm” was finally realized when they established Dinner Bell Farm, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in northern California. “Dinner Bell is more than just a commercial farm,” says Paul. “It’s about sharing food, increasing understanding over food, and nostalgia for a time when that was commonplace.” Dinner Bell Farm specializes in Animal Welfare Approved pasture-raised chickens, as well as sustainably-grown vegetables and wedding flowers. “Our aim is to create a diverse farming system that focuses on soil health and regeneration,” Paul explains. “We grow thick stands of cover crop which are tilled into the spring soils, which help to minimize soil nutrient losses over the winter. We raise our animals on pasture across the farm, but they also play an integral role in the production of our fruit, vegetable and flower crops by helping to build soil fertility and control weeds and pests.”
Managing this integrated system requires a lot of skill, effort, and real commitment. “People deserve good food and animals should be treated with respect,” says Paul. “It’s a challenge to stay dedicated to those principles, but farming is built on honor and integrity. If we have to compromise on these things – producing the highest quality, using organic feed, traditional breeds, rotational and pasture-grazing – then we’d rather not be doing it.”
Paul, Molly and Cooper chose New Hampshire and Naked Neck chickens, both traditional chicken breeds, because of their suitability to pasture-based farming. Instead of raising an industrial bird out on pasture, which is specifically bred to grow fast and can suffer real health and welfare problems as a result, they felt that it was important to raise birds that would thrive outdoors, where they knew how to scratch and peck, take dust baths, and search for grubs. As Paul explains, the meat from the pasture-raised New Hampshires and Naked Necks reminds many of their customers of how chicken used to taste. “It’s a shame that all chicken is called chicken,” Paul says. “It’s like comparing apples to oranges.”
Molly, Paul and Cooper applied for Animal Welfare Approved certification for their meat birds because it can be really challenging to teach people that there is a difference – that their dedication to pasture-based farming is more sustainable and produces meat that not only tastes better, but is also more nutritious. They hope that the integrity and transparency offered by the AWA label will help them tell this story to their customers throughout the California foothills, San Francisco Bay Area, and Sacramento area. “We farm because we love this earth and we believe that ecological agriculture is part of the solution,” Paul explains. “We farm because we believe that nutritionally dense food is a right. We farm because we believe that there is a better way to treat the animals we eat.”
AWA-certified chicken meat from Dinner Bell Farm is available at local farmers’ markets, restaurants and grocery stores, as well as through the farm’s online Chicken Club. To find your nearest supplier visit AWA’s Online Directory.