Friday, February 20, 2015

Our Hen Heroes say: “Think Spring!”

Jesus One of Our Intrepid Storm Troopers

The Country Hen Storm Troopers

Our Hen Heroes say: “Think Spring!”



In an effort to keep a light heart under all of this heavy snow, we have changed some of the lyrics to The Wizard of Oz’s  song Follow the Yellow Brick Road. Our modified version goes something like this:

Follow the white icy road. Follow the white icy road. Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the white icy road. We’re off to see the blizzard, the wonderful blizzard of Awes! Shovels and snowplows and sand…Oh my!...Shovels and snow plows and sand…Oh my!

We can joke around a little now that the weather has started warming up a bit and the daylight is lasting a little longer each evening. Signs and hopes that spring is on the way and there is a light at the end of this winter tunnel. That song wasn’t so much fun a short while ago. What a winter it has been! Storm after storm, foot after foot of snow and day after day of below zero temperatures plagued us here at the farm for what felt like an eternity. We had record breaking accumulations, and record breaking low temperatures with wind chills well below zero to contend with. Our delivery trucks fuel lines froze up so they wouldn’t start, our furnace decided it needed a break (and not just to get a cup of coffee either) during the coldest stretch of super freeze February. Train cars filled with feed ingredients had to wait on the tracks until the trucks and drivers were done with snowplowing duties before they could be brought to our mill. The main activity for nearly everyone everyday has involved shoveling and snow removal added to the normal tasks and chores on the farm.

 When we heard we would not be able to drive during the state of emergency in effect for the first blizzard our hen heroes volunteered to stay on the farm to look after the hens, make sure they had everything they needed and make sure the parking lot got plowed and all the doors were shoveled out so everyone could get in after the emergency ended. These heroes made sure all of the loading docks were cleared and the feed trucks could get to all the barns. They kept watch to make sure the water lines didn’t freeze and the food supply to the hens never stopped. They spent the night in sleeping bags on cold, hard floors giving up all the comforts of their own homes to make sure the farm was in good hands. All of that was just for one storm. We have had piles and piles more since that first big Arctic blast and our heroes keep on battling this wicked winter with admirable dedication. We cannot express how much we appreciate their superhuman efforts.

Our hen heroes tackled every one of these storms and every mounting foot of snow with tireless determination. They have all truly gone above and beyond, staying as many hours as necessary, working in brutally cold temperatures to make sure operations kept running as smoothly as possible, keeping the hens safe, making sure the eggs made it from the barns to the packaging and then to the customers without missing a beat. We are all optimistically hoping the worst is behind us but our heroes remain ready to do what it takes if Mother Nature decides She’s not quite done just yet.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

My New Family

My New Country Hen Family
If someone had told me when I was young that one day I would work on an honest to goodness farm, I would have laughed out loud. Most kids dream of growing up to have sophisticated and spectacular careers that would allow them to wear respected uniforms, attractive clothing and spectacular outfits like Astronauts, Professional Athletes, Rock Stars, and Actors with careers that would bring fame and fortune. Some dream of noble and heroic careers as Firefighters, Doctors, Police Officers, Soldiers and Leaders of their communities that would bring respect and glory in the public eye.
The kids that do grow up to work in those “dream” fields usually learn that attaining, maintaining and being successful at such careers is a lot harder than they’d thought it would be and the cool outfits often weigh on them in more ways and much more heavily than they’d expected. I didn’t know many kids (if any at all) who’d ever dreamed of growing up to work on a farm.
I had a lot of misconceptions about farms in my youth and could not have imagined how people could be happy toiling away in flannel shirts, bib overalls or dungarees and rubber boots. (Does anyone think this is stylish work attire?) There could be no fame and fortune, no glamour, glory or public esteem. So what could possibly be appealing about working on a farm? Why would anyone want to do that kind of work? The answers surprised me, and I would never have believed it unless I’d experienced it myself. There is a lot that can be said about the many various rewards that come from taking pride in what you do. Not just taking pride, but genuinely feeling proud of honest work making the most exceptional quality available to as many people as possible.
 Working on a farm is not a career so much as it is a lifestyle. Getting a job here was more like being adopted into a warm and welcoming family than it was like being hired to perform tasks.  I still have moments when I think “This can’t be real, I must be dreaming.” The people who work on this farm are genuine, honest to a fault, wholesome, hard-working, practical, conscientious, polite, thoughtful, caring, down-to-Earth humans who exemplify the very definition of the word “humane” with every breath they take. These are intrepid and innovative people of integrity who work with what they have and find a way to make that do whatever needs to be done.
The environment is calm, soothing and serene as you listen to the chickens chirring their contentment like a lullaby accompanied by the thrumming chug-chug-chugging sounds of the mill making their favorite food. Everyone works together as a team, each offering their own expertise and their individual strengths, each supporting and being supported by the others and keenly aware of how it all meshes together. We do not get to wear the really cool outfits, as a matter of fact our busiest workers wear nothing at all (except feathers) but the appeal for me of working on this farm cannot be measured in monetary gain, in fame or fortune or public esteem. It cannot be defined in words, it can only be experienced. I truly wish that everyone could experience the pride and contentment that is to be found working with such great co-workers whether they wear flannel or feathers in an environment that is the closest thing to what I consider to be Utopia anyone can hope to find.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Starting from scratch...A trip back through time.

George Bass Founder of The Country Hen
with a few of the girls
In the beginning George Bass envisioned a new concept of a farm that would be a haven for healthy hens to produce healthy eggs for humans. George was primarily interested in the human health aspect of the egg when he first started The Country Hen.  His interest in the health aspects and organic farming arose when George learned of the deadly nature of pesticides first hand. George learned the sad, hard lesson after a gardener and acquaintance of his named Alfonso died of accidental poisoning from pesticides used in the vegetable gardens. George learned these dangerous pesticides and herbicides were commonly used by the commercial agricultural industry growing crops used in feed for chickens. George also knew that toxins consumed by birds would become concentrated in the yolks of their eggs. George became dedicated to the ideal of starting a farm that produced eggs containing no dangerous pesticides or herbicides.
George purchased our little chicken farm located in Hubbardston, Massachusetts from the former farmers, Mr. & Mrs. Maitland Hill. The farm at that time was a modest, tiny property consisting of just a few buildings. One barn served multipurpose as hen house, production packaging, and business office all crammed under one roof. One farmhand by the name of Scott White came as a bonus with the purchase of the property. Scott was the Fire Chief of Hubbardston’s Volunteer Fire Department at the time.  The very first thing George insisted upon was getting rid of all cages so the hens could roam about freely. Imagine what any business office in any industry would be like with loose hens running about all over the place! The four employees (including George) didn’t seem to mind in the least.
The most modern technology in the “office” here at that time consisted of little more than a telephone and electricity, not much in the way of modern conveniences to work with. Everything was about as primitive as it could be. George’s first desk was a re-purposed wooden door on two oil barrels. The old saying “Great oak trees start as tiny acorns” comes to mind as I revisit this history with you.
George’s next step toward bringing his ideal farm into being was to research and develop the best organic feed possible. Here is where another old time favorite quote comes to mind; “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” George wanted the feed done right and so he brought in the mill and worked diligently with a team of nutritionists specializing in human nutrition and poultry nutrition. We began making our proprietary formula of organic feed right here on our farm. Scott became second in command and in charge of running the mill.
George knew all of the benefits that come with direct natural sunlight and so he insisted that new Thermopane windows be installed. Scott helped build all the new benches, he installed our beautiful windows, and took care of the mill. Once this was all in place, the first of the chickens arrived and Scott became their caretaker as well. 
            Truth be told, it wasn’t all as simple as that.  There was a great deal of work involved in each of those improvements made to benefit our beloved hens. Those improvements took a lot of time, manpower and money to bring them into being.  Why would anyone go to all that trouble? The answer is simple. All of this was done to create the safest and most comfortable, biosecure living environment for the hens. The results speak for themselves. Country Hen eggs are great tasting, loaded with Omega 3s, and packed with nutritious vitamins and minerals. They might just be nature’s most perfect source of protein. We all take a lot of pride in our exceptional eggs and all that we do to nurture our healthy hens. George’s tireless efforts were a most admirable labor of love and a model worth continuing.