Kerry Harrington didn’t set out to become a farmer. In fact, her plan was to become a surgeon when she began working at Falling Sky Farm’s processing facility just outside Wesley, Arkansas. She took the job in 2011 so she and her husband, Joshua, could make ends meet while she completed her bachelor’s degree in biology.
Kerry started out plucking chickens, but after a few weeks, she was asked to help with some chores in the pastures. Immediately falling in love with both the land and animals, she had an “aha moment” about how she wanted to devote her future. She recalled:
“I got an up-close look at the pastures where the animals were raised, and it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. I began to ask myself why I would spend my days in a hospital when I could be here on this beautiful land where the animals are well-cared for and healthy.”
By the time Kerry finished college in 2012, she had learned how to manage every aspect of a farm, from fencing to processing and even bookkeeping. Just a few days after her first child was born, Falling Sky Farm founders Cody and Andrea Todt approached her about joining their Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative as a chicken farmer. Andrea’s dad had a 150-acre farm in Marshall, Arkansas and was looking for someone to run it.
Seizing the opportunity to become full-time sustainable farmers, Kerry and Joshua spent the next three months fixing up the old farm house on the property so they could move in. Just a few months later, The Other Side Farm was in operation with its first batch of 300 chickens.
The Pasture-Raised Difference
Kerry’s chickens spend their first three weeks indoors, carefully protected and given plenty of water and a custom-blended non-GMO feed. They are then ready to live the rest of their lives on pasture. The birds are moved to fresh grass every day to allow them to forage for bugs and enjoy fresh grass, clover and buttercup. This also benefits the farm by fertilizing and aerating the soil. The wide open space and sunlight keeps the chickens happy, healthy and bacteria-free.
Grass Roots Farmers use a rotational grazing system and other farming practices that benefit the animals and the land. All the animals are moved to fresh pasture daily. As a result, the animals don’t have problems with disease. Kerry said they keep their numbers low so they can closely monitor the health of the animals and detect any problems before they can become a widespread issue. It’s all about responsible use of the land, ethical and humane treatment of the animals, and quality over quantity.
“I wish everyone could see the physical conditions that chickens live in for themselves,” Kerry explained. “Conventionally-raised chickens are crammed in houses shoulder to shoulder, with no sunlight, activity or foraging. They don’t get to enjoy being chickens. When the birds have space to move around, fresh grass to graze as they choose, and plenty of bugs to chase, they have a better quality of life.”
Living the Dream
Although running an ethical, family farm isn’t a lifestyle that’s meant for everyone, it benefits us all. “This is a life-long commitment, and it’s not something you can just quit,” said Kerry. The land and animals need constant care, and we never take a vacation, but we don’t mind because we’re living the dream. Every time I drive home, I just feel so grateful to live here, and that makes all the hard work worth it.”
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