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  • Writer's pictureRyan & Ally Gerken

Goodbyes Are Never Easy

Many of you have met Samantha, our chicken through our social media platforms - we love her, she is a very special and beautiful bird!

Over the past several months life on the farm has picked up pace significantly. Beginning in May the prep-work for #hemp2021 began. Along with that we have begun trying to navigate what our business will look like post-covid and for our 2021 hemp harvest. Our business has still felt a little mucky, we were sometimes relying on our “corporate” jobs and got too comfortable with funding the farm that way; other days we had all the motivation in the world to make boat loads of money off the farm, quit those corporate jobs AND stick it to the man! It felt like a fucking bipolar roller coaster. Well folks starting your own business is a roller coaster. And the back and forth is usually your inner critic telling you some days “you got this” and others days “you are flipping insane”. I'd like to tell everyone that this type of back and forth ends but it doesn’t and everything I’ve read says, C'est la vie!

The chaos does get more manageable even though the inner critic doesn’t go away. To help us manage our chaos, we honed in on our wants and needs for the farm. One of the needs we identified was that we NEEDED to get our USDA Organic Certification. There is just no logical way to sell a product that we are going to try and encourage people to ingest without certification. Plus organic is more sought after, and this is the last year/second to last year to try and establish our market share by capitalizing on the USDA Organic.

To further explain, to be USDA Organic there is a three year waiting period typically because farmers need to rid their properties of all the non-organic material that has been used. Additionally, certain infrastructure and processes all need to be transitioned into USDA Organic standards or built to USDA Organic standard and again, that typically requires a three year period. The farm bill passed in 2018 and most farmers took part in the green-rush in 2019, many gave up and many have not. Those that haven’t still have a one-two year waiting period should they be trying to grow organic. However, our farm had been neglected since our ownership in 2019 and we grew organic from the get-go. So my friends we are already compliant! Which means our 2021 harvest should be certified organic in less than 12 weeks - yahooo!!!

So why are goodbyes never easy? Because we have to say goodbye to our Samantha. Per USDA Organic rules, they won't certify existing laying hens. Sad I know, but this very strange happenstance, happened.The day I began working with CCFO (the company vertifying us organic) a canal broke in our town that caused flash flooding and walls of water three to five feet high. I saw a lot of the damage on social media and asked one of the farms impacted if there was anything we could do (the farm that gave us our beautiful Camilla The Pig). They informed us that AMAZINGLY all their animals survived!!! Crazy, because if Camilla were there that was likely not going to be the same outcome. We were also told that an organic farm up the road didn’t have the same luck, they lost all 3 acres of organic crops and nearly all their livestock to include chickens, turkeys, and pigs.

When I opened the email from CCFO stating we can’t certify our chickens, I texted Ryan. He replied “let's make them chicken nuggets”. I replied “hell NO”. I told Ryan I was going to respond to the Go-Fund me put in place for the farm that lost it all to see if they would be interested in us donating our flock to them. I wasn’t expecting them to reply to be honest but that night around 9pm, I checked my email and lo and behold, they wanted our flock.

Heartbreak set in almost immediately. I thought about all the possible thoughts including, “did I mean to do this? Can we keep them? How do we keep them? HOW DO WE KEEP Samantha?” Yet, landed on it’s just time to say goodbye. Keeping Samantha would not be fair to her, she has a role in her flock and a sister and rooster who love and protect her. It’s also too financially irresponsible to try and keep them and still move forward with our Organic Certification. If we are going to pay to be organic we need to be 100% organic.

So some time in the next month, we are going to have to do a-thing, that we don’t want to do. Just writing about it makes me sad, because though we are prepping the girls, it will still likely be confusing and hard for them: And us! We love Samantha. She has been different, day-one! She walks with us, goes to the park with us, helps me to wrangle in the pigs, and comes to visit us at home everyday through our window. She will be very missed.

Goodbye’s and endings have never been fun for me. When I was a wee-little girl, I had an affinity for Bug Juice - a 1998 Disney reality TV series that followed kids to overnight summer camp. I absolutely hated the ending episodes where they all had to go home!! We always say things to each other when we say goodbye “see you soon, see you next year, I will write!”, never knowing if this will truly be your last time together. It is totally tragic to me!!!

Knowing this will probably be the last time we see Samantha is also very tragic to me. But I am going to do it 🖤. She will be loved by this new farm, I am sure, and the new adventure is probably right up her alley-of-a-bird anywho!

Cheers to Jonathan Livingston Seagull’s everywhere!

Until we meet again Ms. Samantha,

Your first family XOXO

Be Kind. Be Positive.

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