While farmers like Joel Salatin may be the poster children for sustainable farming in America, one of the deep pleasures of writing this blog has been meeting other dedicated - and often unsung - farmers in the NYC food-shed. Recently, while in the Southern Tier of New York State, we were lucky enough to stumble upon one these farmers.
Windy Ridge Natural Farms in Alfred, NY is, not surprisingly, situated on a windy ridge. On this quiet hilltop sit about 400 of the happiest chickens we have ever seen! And caring for them is the tireless and tenacious Tim Koegel. Tim’s story is not all that different from others we have heard. He grew up on a small farm, saying goodbye to an agrarian lifestyle at age 18 - or so he thought. Skip a few years ahead to Tim with a good job, a lovely family... and a daughter with a terrible and inexplicable rash. When no modern or holistic medicine could solve the problem, Tim became convinced that it was food related. After carefully monitoring what his daughter was eating, he discovered that she suffered from an allergy to sulfites - food preservatives found as commonly in "organic" food as in conventional products.
That's when Tim realized the food system was seriously broken, and he decided that the only way to promote change was to participate in it. Over the last ten years Tim has become a leading pioneer in organic and sustainable poultry and egg farming. Working closely with Animal Welfare Approved and National Organic Farmers Association of New York, Tim has experimented and tinkered his way to a truly exceptional poultry production system. In fact, Tim describes his farm as being for experimental as much as productive. He works closely with AWA, consulting with people who want get into a similar kind of poultry farming. Recently, with a grant from AWA, he designed and built a state of the art mobile pasture layer house (a chicken trailer).
The Windy Ridge layers - Rhode Island Reds, Golden Laced Wyandottes, and Red-sex Links - are offered uninterrupted access (weather permitting) to pasture. Besides the ample food they find while foraging, they are fed organic grains grown in Western New York and Northern Pennsylvania. Their eggs can be found at Dickson’s in NYC and he raises broilers during the summer, selling them from his farm as wholes or by the half. He also raises roosters for meat (Windy Ridge Coq-au Vin coming soon!) and hopes to be able to house and sell more in the near future.
On top of being blown away by Tim's innovations and contributions to sustainable organic poultry farming, it was inspiring to listen to his ideas on good 'ole food - which is really what this is all about. To Tim, food, health and wellness are all part of the same thing. The food he produces isn't just less-bad for you, it actually makes you healthier. And that is the real goal- to make food that is delicious, healthy, and better for local economies.
We cant wait to come back this summer and see the Windy Ridge broilers. Thank you Tim for being such a welcoming inspiration!