Monday, November 1, 2010

Farm Profile: A Little Hope Farm -- Pasture Chickens and Heritage Turkeys

This post is about A Little Hope Farm in Sandy, Oregon.  I'm writing about this farm because we are getting our turkey for Thanksgiving from them.  We've also bought chickens from them in the past. 

The Basics
A Little Hope Farm is owned by Eliza Cannaday and Jeff Hlavac.  It's on five acres in Sandy, Oregon.  Eliza and Jeff live there and do all the work.  They have many animals, but raise Cornish Cross chickens and Bourbon Red turkeys for sale, one small flock at a time. 

The Chickens, the Turkeys, and...the Donkey?
Cornish Cross chickens are not a heritage breed.  I asked Eliza about this.  They'd tried heritage chickens in the past, but it didn't really work out. Americans have a clear idea of what chicken meat should taste like, and that is not how the heritage chickens tasted. "I don't think the American palette is ready for heritage chicken," she told me.  Although Cornish Cross are the most common meat breed of chicken you can buy, the chickens at A Little Hope are strictly pasture raised.  Never crammed into tight little cages--they sleep under the stars, walk around in the rain, eat all the fat earth worms they can find, and live their short 8 week life in about the most ethical conditions you could ever hope for a chicken to have. 

The turkeys have it just as good, if not better. 
The turkeys and the donkey--buddies. Well, sort of...
Bourbon Reds are a true heritage breed, and it shows.  They are about as close to a wild turkey as you can get in domestication.  The Broad-Breasted Whites you buy in the frozen meat case at the super market are descendants of this breed.  Bourbon Reds have not been altered to grow fast or get super-sized breast meat.  It takes about 7.5 months to raise a flock for slaughter.  Compare that to the 12 weeks it takes a normal supermarket bird and you can see that this is no get rich quick scheme.  Seven and a half months means these birds have been outside for most of the year.  They arrived with the spring rains, ate worms and grubs all summer long, took dirt baths on hot days in August, and are now fattening up for the coming winter.  They fly out of their pen to roost on top of the chick coop in the evening. They get chased back into their pen by Eliza in the morning.  Good times for turkeys.

This tom gets all the ladies to himself.
One other important feature of the Bourbon Red turkeys is that they can naturally breed. Because they aren't genetic mutants, they can still get to makin' babies when the mood is right. Ohhh-yeahhhh. 

A Little Hope for a Reason
There are so many good things about the farm that you should know, but one of the most important is the ethics they bring to farming.  It isn't just about humane treatment of the birds they are raising; it's also about humane treatment of the people in their lives.

"If you are lucky enough to have five acres, you have an opportunity and an obligation to grow for your community." 

Five acres is enough, says Eliza, that you can have a small farm with some diversity and enough room for the chickens and the turkeys and goats and donkey and human kids to roam around. 

Eliza and Jeff are strong believers in the benefits of diversified small farms over large mono-cultures.  Not only because small batch farming normally results in less sick animals, but also because it leads to more accountability.
Eliza getting some turkey eggs.  Yummy.

"Buy your meat from who fed it," Eliza says.  This is key to breaking the industrial system.  Even organic farming--if it is embedded in an industrial system--does not increase accountability between the consumer and the producer.  It is the industrialized systems themselves that create separation.  This includes large scale operations like Oregon Country Beef where you can have no idea who raised the meat you are eating.  You're required to put your trust in the system and not the people.  This can create loop-holes and gaps that perpetuate the disconnect and reduce the sense of accountability.

It is this sense of accountability--to the animals they raise, their community of neighbors, friends, and customers, the natural world they are a part of--that motivates Eliza and Jeff.

If you know the person you are buying from, if you see where they raised the animals and what it means to them to have a healthy product, then you are changing the way things are done, even just a little bit.

That is the little hope that this farm is built on.

To find out more about heritage turkeys or pastured chickens, call Eliza at 503-997-8308.

Normally every bird is sold well in advance, so place your orders early.


  1. Thankyou so much for all your kind and inspired words Jason. I can't stress enough the importance of the consumer getting involved, education is the key. You are doing your part and then some. We really enjoyed your visit, even in the pouring rain.... I do want to clarify one small piece...I don't want to discourage people from buying or growing heritage breed chickens. They are delicious and have a dimention of flavor you can't find in the cornishX. Its important to support the farmers who are putting the extra time and resouces into preserving these breeds..... love the blog, keep up the good work!xoxo p.s. trade ya some kahlua for some salt;)

  2. I love your blog! I just found it through food buzz. I'm getting ready to start the Dark Days challenge to eat within 100 miles for one meal per week from December through April. Does Eliza have a website as well?

  3. Eliza--it was great to come out and see you guys and learn about your farm! We always like coming out to visit. And I will totally trade you salt for moonshine...i mean, kahlua!

    Improb. Farmer--thank you for your kind words. Good luck with the dark days challenge. 100 miles is tough! Also, Eliza doesn't have a website...yet.

  4. Hi there! This was a wonderful and insightful post! Thanks for blogging! Do you know if the farm sells eggs as well?

  5. Hi Satheara. I don't know that Eliza does eggs. We have our own chickens so we don't usually buy eggs. I know Eliza has some egg laying chickens, but the rules for selling eggs might be different than selling meat. Give her a call! I'm sure she'll be glad to talk with you. 503-997-8308.

  6. I love love love this farm and the wonderful treasures it produces! From the chicken and turkey to the fruits galore! Worth the trip.