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Get to Know Brian & Lauren, Chicken Farmers from Virginia

How did you get into chicken farming?

Brian: I’ve been farming for as long as I can remember. My grandpa started our farm, and although it has changed and diversified over the years, we still farm some of the same land. I look forward to the day that the next generation is actively running the family business. Our farm is in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and we have broiler chickens, beef cows, and crops. 

Lauren: I married in to all things agriculture when I met Brian! Growing up in the city, I knew nothing about farming, and started from the bottom up when I met Brian 12+ years ago! One of the first times I came to the farm, I went into one of the chicken houses, and was blown away by the size and scope – I didn’t have any concept of what “raising chickens” entailed! Over the years, I’ve developed a strong appreciation for the care and passion that the farmers on our farm and across the country have to raise a product and see it to the next step, or to market.

What do you love about chicken farming?

Brian: I’m proud of the commitment that our family has to producing food for others. I like seeing the final product off and on to the next step.

Lauren: I love to be in the houses the first day the chicks come. They come to us the day they are hatched, and travel from the hatchery to our farm on a climate-controlled truck. We’ve cleaned and prepped the houses, and they are ready with age-appropriate feed, water – and feel tropical at 93 degrees! It doesn’t take long until they are up and exploring their new surroundings. They’re so curious!

What’s your least favorite thing about chicken farming?

Brian: Modern poultry farming is a delicate balance of technology, mechanization and human input. It’s up to me to make sure that the equipment is running properly, but unfortunately sometimes you have to deal with equipment breakdown! Some days it feels like I’m more in “handyman mode” than others –but that’s just farming in general! 

Lauren: When you deal with living things, you see all parts of the life cycle, from birth to death. Dealing with the end of the life cycle isn’t my favorite thing about raising chickens, but we choose to view this for ourselves and our kids as a reminder to steward what we have well, and to make the best choices we can daily.

What’s one thing about chicken farming you wish more people would know?

Lauren: As a former city girl, I can easily see the non-farm side of questions that pop up around farming. I understand (and think back to my first days on the farm!) that people may wonder about how chickens are raised, why they’re kept indoors, etc. I wish people understood that the chickens raised in the U.S. today have amenities that some of our human neighbors don’t. They have continual access to water and nutritious food, a clean ventilated house, and climate-controlled environment. Chickens are raised by farming families just like ours as a valuable protein source with their welfare as top of mind.

Brian: What Lauren said!

What’s your favorite chicken dish? 

Our favorite chicken recipe comes from an old Mennonite cookbook by Esther Shank. This chicken casserole is a great use of leftover rotisserie chicken, or you can quickly cook up some breast tenderloins to use in the recipe. Enjoy!