As part of the Planning department’s 100 mile Thanksgiving events I went with a group to pick up three 18lb turkeys from Polyface Farm . While there we wandered around and looked at all the animals and took in the amazing landscape surrounding the farm.
For those of you that don’t know anything about Polyface Farms…
It is located in Swoope, VA, which is about 40 minutes west of Charlottesville. It is run by Joel Salatin and his family who use unconventional methods of raising animals, with the goal of “emotionally, economically and environmentally enhancing agriculture”. Salatin bases his farm’s ecosystem on the principle of watching animals’ activities in nature and emulating those conditions as closely as possible. The cattle are grazed outdoors within small pastures enclosed by electrified fencing that is easily and daily moved at 4pm to ensure that the animals always have fresh grass.
The meat chickens are housed in portable field shelters that are moved daily to a fresh grass and away from yesterdays droppings. All manure is distributed by the chickens directly onto the field. His egg laying chickens are housed in mobile trailer stlye coops that follow 4 days after the cattle, when flies in the manure are pupating; the chickens get 15% of their feed from this. While scratching for pupae the chickens also distribute the cow manure across the field. Unfortunately when we were there all the chickens had been moved into hoop houses for the winter. Salatin also raises rabbits. The rabbits are housed in movable hutches where they can eat fresh grass and in elevated shelters above the chickens in a custom-made building called the Raken (Rabbit-Chicken) house. The droppings from the rabbits supply nutrients for the chickens.