B. Stoltzfus Farm
I had a wonderful opportunity to visit one of our cage free, all natural farms this week on a gorgeous spring day. My Ford Expedition pulled in the lane about the same time that their horse and buggy rounded the corner. Handing the reins to his wife, B. Stoltzfus ran over to greet us. It was apparent from the start that this fatherly figure was both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his farm, and specifically, his hens.
Typical of his culture, the grounds were beautiful, weed free, flower laden – something out of a children’s picture book. Their gardener? Well, even as we stood talking, his wife got out their rotary mower and began to cut and edge a part of the lawn which by my standards was already well manicured. I could see how she enjoyed their farm. They proudly showed us another addition to their lawn maintenance service: a flock of sheep grazing in a side yard. The buildings and runs were spotless and the chickens beautiful and healthy. It looked the kind of place where you would like to raise your own family.
Walking among the hens, I took advantage of his knowledge by asking as many questions as I thought I could get away with. “Which of these are laying?” I asked. He scooped one up in his arm with the mannerism of someone who has been around animals for fifty years. “Looking at the size of her comb will help you estimate her age. That’s a start. But here, feel these bones. You can tell by the feel of them and their position whether she has begun laying. This one has.” He let me feel but my hands did not have the discerning touch of his.
No automatic feeders here to supplement their scratching. Instead he wanders among them handling their feed himself. “Perhaps that’s one reason they seem to enjoy my company,” he chuckled. His sons have married and now work as wood craftsman. He and his wife handle their own chickens and “occasionally we have a few people come help for the day.” On those rare days he gets help from neighbors, church people, or family – which in this farmer’s life are categories that overlap. He seems to have the combination of energy, calmness, and enthusiasm that makes him a good farmer.
With a twinkle in his eye he left us with this comment, “I don’t care what the articles say, I still like mine just a le-e-etle bit runny!” I decided not to argue.