Rebecca Landman was thrilled when the Artisanal Chicken Program was introduced, because it meant she could grow more of her free-range, antibiotic-free and GMO-free chickens and sell them off-farm to local restaurants.
“It was an awesome process,” Landman says of entering Chicken Farmers of Ontario’s (CFO) program, which is aimed at small-scale producers looking to raise 600 to 3,000 chickens a year. “I was amazed at how open they were to different methods of raising chickens.”
Landman, who owns Landman Gardens and Bakery, located on an 88-acre farm north of Grand Valley Ontario, is producing 800 chickens in 2016. Previously, she and her brother Josh had raised and sold the maximum of 300 birds under the Family Food Program for a number of years.
Her chickens spend their first two weeks in a brooder barn, then another two in a larger sheltered area. Finally, they’re put out to pasture in moveable coops for the last five to seven weeks. There, they are re-positioned every day to a different part of the pasture.
She’s most proud of the quality of the meat from her birds.
“The butcher told me that my chickens have perfectly developed breasts,” she says. Customers have also told her that the meat tastes really good.
Landman sells her chickens at her on-farm retail store, at farmers’ markets in Orangeville and Shelburne, and to two local restaurants. Chicken meat is also available through her Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business, which she also supplies from her one-acre market garden.
She has a website and is active in social media with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Coming from a long line of farmers, Landman had some experience with animal husbandry, but took a lot of time trying out different kinds of moveable coops. She finally settled on one that’s light enough to easily move without being knocked around by strong winds.
Her advice to anyone wanting to get into the artisanal program is to talk to other farmers, network and do lots of research into what works best for their operation. She finds networking with other chicken producers about the best feeders and waterers and other production tips an excellent way to stay on top of trends.
Besides chicken and vegetables, Landman sells preserves, pickles and sauces in her retail store, as well as honey and other foods made by Ontario producers. She also has a commercial kitchen where she makes ready-made dinners and baked goods.
Landman plans to expand her flock to 1,200 to 1,500 birds and will spend the winter further exploring the restaurant market.
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