As I’ve mentioned, we’ve been partnering with SVO Farmer Focus (Organic) Chicken this year, and one of the best things about their company is how they treat their farmers. It may not be top of mind when you’re choosing a chicken to buy at the store, but some conventional chicken farmers are sadly required to sign contracts and follow practices that are not in their best interest. Moreover, they often have no other choice! You can see exactly how this plays out first-hand when watching the documentary Food, Inc. It’s honestly hard to watch at times!
SVO Farmer Focus, on the other hand, welcomes their farmers with open arms and gives them the ability to own their own chickens and retain control of their farms. It’s hard to imagine it making sense any other way! So, I was excited to interview Elsie Cline about her family’s life as organic chicken farmers (for SVO Farmer Focus) on their very own Pine Grove Farm in Bridgewater, VA.
Life as an Organic Chicken Farmer
How long have you been a farmer?
My husband has been a farmer all his life. I became a farmer when we got married 21 years ago.
How did you get started (a little about your background)?
My husband started when he built the chicken houses in the early 1990s. We also grow corn, soybeans, hay, and most recently, raise cows on our 190-acre farm.
Who is involved in your farm (is it a family business)?
Me, my husband, and our three children. My daughter and son help when they are needed, and the oldest son hopefully will continue on with the family farm in the years to come.
Were you a conventional farmer prior to following organic practices? If so, what made you switch?
Yes, we were for 25 years. We liked the idea of moving from a large company to a more family-focused company.
From your perspective, what is the difference between conventional and organic farming?
We love the lower density and healthier environment for organic and knowing that we are free of all the harsh chemicals, additives, and antibiotics that were used in the houses and chickens.
What are some of the challenges that you face?
There’s always the chance of equipment breaking down, storms causing power outages, and keeping the chickens safe from predators when they are enjoying the outdoors.
What makes it all worth it?
Being able to raise a good quality bird.
What do you like about working with Farmer Focus?
I like how they are more involved with the farmers, and we feel like we are someone to the company and not just a number in their book. They focus on the farmer and investment in the process, which means better working conditions, and in the end, a better product.
In doing a little research myself, I came across this article that speaks to the state of the poultry industry. Probably more information than what you need, but chicken is definitely still very popular, and consumers are wanting organic and also want to know more about how their food is made, or raised in this instance.
Jefferson Heatwole, SVO’s Chief Sales officer who has been with the company since the beginning, said,
“There’s plenty of data coming in that shows that transparency will continue to be a key driver in consumer consideration for food sourcing, and so we certainly view that as a platform from which we can tell our story and engage directly with the end consumer and in a way they can really get behind not just the brand but the process.”
On the horizon for SVO Farmer Focus: Time-saving options that are less processed with minimal, natural ingredients, and convenient options for busy families.
In the meantime, we continue to be a fan of Farmer Focus products AND their business practices, including their commitment to farmers. You know I say that we vote with our dollars, so find where you can get Farmer Focus chicken near you and become a fan as well!