Support Your Local Chicken Farmer or Be One

Reader Contribution by Kurt Jacobson

This chicken farm has it all! I see chicken coops, a hillside of grape vines, Red Wattle heritage pigs, a veggie garden and quite a view. On my recent trip to Temecula, California, I went exploring both the wine culture and farm culture in this historic town. Once the location of the Vail Cattle Ranch spreading across 87,500 acres; Temecula is now a collection of housing developments, a historic downtown, vineyards, and small farms.

I was having dinner at E.A.T. (Extraordinary Artisan Table) in old town Temecula, devouring some of the best farm-to-table fare I have had anywhere.  When I told chef Leah how good the food was she said “The egg on top of your mushroom soup is from a new chicken farmer, Cory Shallow and his eggs are the best!” I had to agree it was an excellent egg and said a visit to the farm would make my day. That night Leah set up a meeting with Cory on very short notice.  The next morning she met me at Cory’s farm to see for myself where the egg I had with dinner came from.

Cory’s dad bought this property in 2001 to build their home. He envisioned it as a place to grow grapes and make wine for his personal use. Cory attended Cal-Poly after graduating high school in Temecula and didn’t have plans to work the family farm. After graduating with a BS in Agricultural and Environmental Plant Science Cory applied for two jobs he expected to land. When neither job came through his dad asked him to consider working on the family farm which made perfect sense.

Shortly after returning home to work the family farm the idea was hatched to raise chickens. The family home and six acres were a perfect set up where rolling cages with broilers could augment the land. The broilers would eat insects and fertilize the ground with chicken droppings as the cages rolled through the vines every couple of days.

Broilers and Layers

The plan is to raise 20-40 broilers at a time and sell them to individuals or a CSA.  A Great Pyrenees pup named Couleson and his pal Thor provide predator control. Cory told me he can hear eight month old Couleson barking in the fields late at night probably chasing off coyotes. The coyotes try and get an occasional chicken dinner, and will also bite into the hose lines that water the crops to get a drink, causing extra work for Cory and Jack to repair. In a dry climate every living thing seeks out water.

With ample space onsite, two hen houses were built to house laying hens. Black Australian Orpingtons, Plymouth Barred Rock, and Golden Sex Link chickens were chosen for egg output temperament, and heat tolerence. Cory aims to produce 1,000 eggs per week for E.A.T. restaurant just five miles away in Temecula.  He is already up to 800 per week; a great start considering he only starting selling to E.A.T. in April of 2017.

Chickens, Wine and Pigs

As if that weren’t enough farm goodness Cory and his dad are raising Red Wattle heritage pigs. These lovely looking pigs were in hog heaven the day I visited; especially when Cory turned the hose on the three little pigs. The piggy’s put on a show of rolling and cavorting in the water spray and mud, something a factory raised pig would never experience.

Cory and Jack only plan on raising up to six pigs per year. The pigs help improve the landscape, and put farm-fresh pork on the table occasionally. These pigs are raised in a humane manner and when it’s time prepare them for the table are dispatched with care and respect. The result is a superb level of eating quality not seen from factory raised pigs.

I would love to return to Temecula in a year and see how Cory’s farm project is going. He’s a great example of a young man going off to college and returning home to do good in the world. Cory is passionate about making his dad’s farm and the world a better place by using sustainable farming techniques. From what I saw at their farm and tasted at E.A.T. he’s doing a great job.

Kurt Jacobsohas been a chef for 40 years and, after being schooled in the U.S. Coast Guard, he trained in many restaurants under both kind and maniac chefs. Kurt is starting his fourth year of container and raised-bed organic gardening and is volunteering at Wilbur’s Farm in Kingsville, Maryland, to learn real organic gardening. For this and other recipes using garden greens, and more fresh veggies check out his food blog. For tasty travel ideas check out Kurt’s travel blog, Read all of Kurt’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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