In the small town of Newfields, NH, there is a well-known and community-involved operation called Vernon Family Farm. Comprising 33 acres, the family and staff raise various livestock including lambs, cows and turkeys. However, their main specialty and focus is their pasture-raised chickens.
Each year, Vernon Family Farm raises over 15,000 pasture-raised chickens – specifically Cornish cross chickens. They spend their first four weeks in a brooder where the staff focus on maintaining clean bedding, water, air and feed for the chicks. They add apple cider vinegar to their water for gut health, they constantly provide grit and they use hydrofiber bedding to help absorb moisture.
They then move outdoors into mobile chicken coops for constant access to fresh green grass to graze. Finally, the chickens are sent to the slaughterhouse at seven weeks old, at their peak market weight.
Jeremiah Vernon, a 10th generation Granite State resident, is the farm operator and has been proudly involved since the farm had its start in 2014. The operation is run by himself, his wife Nicole, their staff and volunteers and their three daughters, Magnolia, Indigo and Pingree. Jeremiah was very willing to talk about his family business and had multiple reasons to explain how unique their farm truly is.
For starters, they not only pride themselves on humanely raising their livestock and providing high quality food and products for their customers, but they also ensure they maintain a customer-friendly space for visitors. They do this with their year-round farm store that displays over 30 other farms’ products and their catering company (Vernon Kitchen), as well as hosting regular farm dinners with live music.
With Jeremiah’s passion for chickens, he was able to put together some advice for those thinking of adding poultry to their operation. His main pieces of advice: “Make sure you have access to everything you’ll need to run a successful poultry business – access to a slaughterhouse, how to bring in genetics, how to keep your farm regulated and inspected. Most importantly, make sure you’re passionate and dedicated to your farm. It is a 24/7 job but it is very rewarding when it’s done right.”
The Vernon Family Farm chose to raise Cornish cross chickens for a variety of reasons. First, they are one of the cheaper chicks to purchase initially. A Cornish cross costs about $1 a chicken, whereas other breeds cost at least $2 per chick. Additionally, Cornish cross chickens are easier for the slaughterhouses to work with, according to Jeremiah. Cornish crosses have clear pin feathers; many other breeds have colored pin feathers. Slaughterhouses charge more per colored pin feather chicken because they have to take the time to remove every single pin feather.
Vernon Family Farm provides high-quality meat and entertainment to their customers, while focusing on waste reduction and regenerative practices.
One of the main ways Vernon Family Farm reduces waste is by using all food parts of the chicken in their catering company. For example, they use the bones to make bone broth and the leftover pieces of chicken in their pot pies, Jeremiah explained. Their regenerative processes include rotating their chickens on pasture, not utilizing synthetic fertilizer, composting with their hydrofiber bedding and chicken litter and conserving water using a nipple water system.
Their community spirit extends into the myriad events they host, including kids cooking classes, adult art classes, yoga sessions, live music and even “Farmer Fireside Chats.”
To learn more, visit vernonfamilyfarm.com.
by Kelsi Devolve