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CRAFT Field Day at Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm: Poultry Operations at a Meat CSA

Old and new friends alike gathered at Beth and Jody Osmunds’ farm, Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm, outside of Ottawa, IL in late-June for a hearty potluck and a tour of their 80-acre farm. One of the first meat CSAs serving the Chicago area, Beth and Jody have been refining their operation since they first started serving the market for sustainably raised meat products in 2002.

While the Osmunds raise a few pigs, hundreds of meat chickens and sell farm-fresh eggs, most of the farm tour and discussion focused on the meat chicken business, which they operate entirely on their farm. On the other hand, it was informative to learn how Beth and Jody work collaboratively with two other sustainable farms in the area to meet demand for pasture-raised beef and pork—capturing on the competitive advantages of each farmer for their specific livestock enterprises.

First on the tour was an orientation to the brooders, where each shipment of chicks begins its life cycle at the farm. Two tractor-trailer sized cargo containers, modified with a wood floor covered in pine-shavings for bedding, electricity and light fixtures, and chicken-wire covered windows for adequate ventilation, the “tur-duck-in” brooders are predator-proof and a pleasant 95 degrees for the 600 chicks that call them home every three weeks.

As the birds get bigger, they are moved to outdoor pens located in a beautiful valley surrounded by forest and guarded (from raccoons) by 3-4 Polish Tatra livestock dogs. These pens, of the Osmunds' own design, are moved at least twice a day across the idyllic pasture. As part of the Field Day, visitors helped load nearly 600 9-week-old birds into crates for their trip to the processor early the next morning.

While the work is difficult, the Osmunds have excellent, efficient systems in place, and it was helpful to learn how these systems evolved over time. We were shown an earlier version of the chicken pens to understand the design’s metamorphosis, and we got glimpses into the cold-storage infrastructure, their set-up for the laying hens, and a few tips for growing really great potatoes.

If you're a farmer or interested in farming and would like to attend future CRAFT Field Days this season, we encourage you to learn more about the CRAFT Network and become a member!

Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm's chicken coopPoultry pastures with chicken tractorsMoving the chicken tractorsLoading chickens to go to the processorLoading chickens to go to the processor