I remember the day my baby learned to say “Cool!” We’d been experimenting with sprouting wheat in a rotating chicken yard for our meat birds, and my husband called me out to see the young birds scratching among the greens.

The birds were almost reddish gold in the morning sun, and they were excitedly browsing through the most vibrant green sprouts. “Cool!” I said reverently. Pretty soon the baby was saying the same thing. “Cool.”

Even tiny children know what their parents think is important, and our littlest one knew I thought those birds were impressive. He was right.

The birds we raise at our farm Auntie Annie’s Fields, LLC are the real thing. They are beautiful animals that live the kind of life you would hope a meat chicken could live. They eat certified organic feed grown near our farm.

One of the things we’ve enjoyed about these birds is their energy and curiosity. They are not the standard American meat breed which grows so quickly that it’s sometimes hard for their bodies to keep up with their growth. Our red “Freedom Rangers,” are bred for good taste and vigor.

I think it’s because of that breeding that our birds have been healthy, even in the hottest part of last summer. They’ve been very active and curious foragers, getting extra nutrition from our sprouted grains, from bugs, and whatever other things a chicken might scratch up and consider to be delicious.

My family and I have been raising chickens together for four summers now. Ian still teaches 7th grade English in St Paul, like he has done since he finished college, while I (Elizabeth) stay home with the chickens and our three children, ages 1, 8 and 11.

We moved here from South Minneapolis because we’d always dreamed of farming. It was a dream that we pursued as very young adults, and then it went fallow for many years as we built a beautiful life for ourselves and our children in the cities. We didn’t want to let that life go, and we were also daunted by the idea of trying to start a farm with little experience.

Every day though, I carried a weight with me because we had never tried farming. It was clear that I would carry that weight with me always unless we at least tried to farm. So finally, we bought a foreclosed home and moved to 20 acres near I-35. One of the first things we did upon moving here was to join Just Food Co-Op as members. It felt almost as important to me as replacing the broken mail box!

About a year after we arrived, we named the farm after my dear great aunt who farmed in Northwestern Minnesota. Contrary to popular belief, I am not Auntie Annie; I’m just a fan of Auntie Annie.

After living here for several years, I’m so grateful we made the choice we did. The weight that I carried for so many years is gone. I suppose it’s replaced by the weight of farm responsibilities, but that weight is a privilege to carry, and it is often a joy.

We feel that these are our responsibilities now: to be of service to the land, animals and people. We want to serve the land by using or supporting farming methods that we think guard the amazing treasure of our rich soil. We want to be of service to animals by providing them a good life and a peaceful, meaningful end. Lastly, we want to be of service to people who can feel confident that buying our chickens helps them live out their beliefs and keep their families healthy.

If you can, take a peek at our frozen birds in Just Food Co-op’s meat freezer. If you’d like to know more about them, “like” our Facebook page. (You don’t have to be signed up with Facebook to search for our farm’s page: Auntie Annie’s Fields). e-mail me to subscribe to our newsletter, or contact me with questions.

(This article was printed in the most recent issue of the Compost, which is the newsletter of Just Food Co-op in Northfield.)

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