I recently received the following letter from Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds, a wonderful source of locally raised chicken, pork, lamb, beef, eggs (and other assorted item) in the Concord / Sudbury area. For reasons outlined in the letter, they are looking for a new location, hopefully not too far away from where they currently farm. Perhaps someone here might have a good lead for them. More generally, it is an interesting tale about the nitty gritty of local agribusiness.
As it is said, all good things must come to an end...or at least a fork in the (farm) road! After many years of growing our farm in Concord, and more recently in Sudbury, it is with mixed emotions that we convey the news that Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds is in the beginning stages of a transition. As many folks may or may not know, Backyard Birds has, since its inception, been rooted on land and in infrastructure owned by Verrill Farm. Pete has been employed as the Assistant Farm Manager at Verrill Farm since March of 2003. As we began raising raising our first few lovely hens way back then, it has mostly all taken place on property owned by the Verrills (we are typical of young/new beginning farmers, most commonly leasing land rather than owning it).
As we have slowly expanded our business over the years and accelerated our growth (a bit) in the last few to meet the ever growing demand for our tasty products, the demands on Pete's time have grown as well. Managing our farm and our new helpers became an increasingly difficult balancing act and the Verrill's now believe that our business has "become a conflict" and have asked us to move on. So...the time has come for us to go our own way. We remain forever grateful to the Verrill's who have "incubated" our business all these years and allowed us access to all their abundant land and critical infrastructure.
On March 31st, Pete will officially end his employment with Verrill Farm after 12 productive years, and with that, the end of an era! At this time, we have been told we may remain on the land and in our home until the end of 2015, but we will need to leave our current housing and remove all our assets from the farm property by December 31, 2015. It is a tremendous disappointment to be asked to leave the Sudbury homestead we have worked extremely hard to improve and where we created a more comprehensive "farmstead" the past 2 1/2 years. We had been working on a longer-term lease agreement for the property with the Verrill's and we have spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars clearing the land and renewing the property to transform unused, overgrown and marginal land into a vibrant farm. It was never our expectation that our departure might need to be so swift. Despite our efforts and overtures, unfortunately, the Verrill's are not interested in leasing us the house/property after this growing season.
OUR PLANS ARE EVOLVING and are in flux.
THE MINI-STORE IS MOVING! As part of this transition, the mini-store will be moving to the Sudbury farm location March 31st, 2015. We will miss our little funky space on Wheeler Road, as we are sure many of you will! We will transition the mini-store to a lovely little green shed at the base of our driveway at 101 North Road in Sudbury (right on Rte 117, just a mile down the street from the existing mini-store) and never fear - there will be no disruption in your ability to get tasty goodies anytime! Our freezers, fridge, and all our tasty products will still be for sale at this location (same spot as the monthly chicken pickups). The NEW Mini-store "Deux" will be open 24/7 until at least early December 2015. We hope to find another location or locations(s) in town to retail our products after this year. We will continue to sell our eggs to Debra's Natural Gourmet and Hutchin's Farm. We will no longer be retailing eggs at Verrill Farm.
HOW YOU CAN HELP!
HELP us FIND a new home farm! We are actively seeking a new, local, home base for our farm! At this time, we are proactively exploring several options in the area and we hope to leave no stone unturned! We need a home to live in and approximately 5+ acres of dry land to house an unheated greenhouse for our laying hens in winter, a small pasture, our orchard, and space for our equipment, rabbitry, brooder, and to store our mobile chicken coops. We would love to reside in Concord, but we are very open to moving our home farm to surrounding towns and continuing to serve the local area. We are speaking with other farms in the area to explore potential synergies and share existing farmland. It is and always has been our plan to partner with vegetable farms to share the wonderful fertility of our beasts and to improve the beautiful and productive soils of Concord.
We welcome any leads or possibilities as time is of the essence! We recognize that many of the best situations are often not advertised publicly, but rather sourced through local networks, word of mouth, and good fortune, so we hope that many of you may have connections or ideas you could introduce us to. We would like to find a nice home to live in, even if it cannot be on the same property as our equipment/home farm. If we cannot find a local property to call our new farmstead within reasonable proximity to farm fields in town, we will have to face the harsh reality of relocating our farm to a more affordable farming community in neighboring states or to central/western Massachusetts. We really hope you can help us discover local opportunities to stay in the area as we would like to continue to grow our business here, but we cannot do it without your help and support!
Farm Volunteer Days! We also want to plant a seed now that we will be organizing several volunteer work days on the farm this year to help us break down and pack up our farm infrastructure. Most fun will be dismantling our two high tunnels (greenhouses), digging up our perennial plants and removing all the fruit trees, trellis, and fencing in the orchard we just planted, loading farm supplies in portable trailers, and more! We hope you can join us for a few big projects and we always appreciate our helpers by sharing in community meals with some farm-grown tastiness!
Lastly, we want to assure folks...
YES - WE ARE FARMING THIS SEASON!
YES - We are growing great food as always....Expect to continue to get the high quality, tasty products you expect from us.
AND YES - we plan to continue being your innovative, sustainably-minded farmers well into the future...hopefully nearby!
This season, we plan on growing all our great meats, eggs, and other items just as we always have. We will be updating our online store over the next week and will soon begin accepting 2015 pre-orders for chicken, pork, and turkeys! In fact, we plan to expand production for 2015 and provide more fresh veggies, fresh chickens every 2 weeks (some cut-up in addition to whole birds), along with regular availability of fresh pork! Since Pete will be focusing 100% of his efforts on Backyard Birds going forward, it will surely be an amazing growing season! The one big challenge being...where we will be moving to at the end of the year. So, please stay tuned, and send us your ideas, suggestions, contacts, and good vibes! It is a trying and stressful time for us, but we are keeping our heads held high and taking a giant leap forward with the hope and trust that our future will be brighter and tastier than ever with your continued support!