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Cripple Crow Ranch

Chicken Farmer Tamara Smith raises certified organic pastured poultry with a beautiful blend of love, respect, humour and gratitude. Speaking to Tamara about Cripple Crow Ranch – from the joy of watching a chick take its first dust bath to the intricacies of properly rotated pastures – it is obvious that love for her chickens imbues every aspect of her operation. If you’ve ever wanted to feel great about where your meat comes from, Cripple Crow Ranch pastured chicken is for you! While raising organic chickens on pasture with impeccable care is more labour-intensive and costly, the results are happier for the birds, the land, and for us eaters. Tamara would also point out that when her chickens are happy, she is happy too!

Who is the farmer at Cripple Crow Ranch?
Tamara Smith (and friends)

Where are you located?
The beautiful Slocan Valley.

What do you raise?
Pasture raised, certified organic chicken.

How would you describe Cripple Crow Ranch?
At Cripple Crow Ranch our chicken people are well loved, moved every day onto fresh green pastures, fed certified organic food, and are raised & dispatched with respect.  This type of chicken farming is more labour intensive than regular organic chicken farming, but we think it is the right thing to do. We want to raise the healthiest birds we can and allow them to live as naturally and comfortably as possible.

Pasturing your birds seems to be central to Cripple Crow Ranch. Why is raising chickens on pasture so important to you?
Pasture raised poultry is our difference. Our chicken people live in the fields 100% of the time (after the tender brooding stage). They don’t just have ‘access’ to the outdoors. They live outdoors in the fields doing what chickens do and getting micro nutrients from the fields and the insect people. Their shelters are moved onto fresh grass every day.  Depending on which field they are grazing, and what predators are lurking about, some birds may live in a large open bottomed pen, or they are contained behind electric meshing. Both are moved daily.

Pastured poultry is about movement … movement of the chicken people every day onto fresh grass… We like to call it “poultry in motion”.  This movement ensures they have fresh graze every day and they aren’t ingesting their own manure. And since chickens are omnivores, they also dine on crickets, grasshoppers, and grubs along the way. This diet of bugs and green grass, and ample sunlight, infuses them with vitamins and minerals they can’t get from grain based feed. Once moved, behind them, a fresh blanket of manure is evenly applied to the fields improving the pasture…

…and the circle keeps moving. The sun sanitizes the manure, new grass grows, and before the chickens touch that portion of the field again, we move herbivores onto the pasture to chop down the new long lush grass to an few inches high (the height the chicken people love). The herbivores leave behind manure that then becomes wonderful bug habitat, and an endless source of entertainment for the chickens.

This sounds so idyllic and so natural at the same time. Do you find the pasture makes a difference in the meat too?
Absolutely. Pasture raised organic chicken is the best tasting chicken you will find. It doesn’t need anything… just pop in the oven and you are done…. Though Jaimie Oliver’s BBQ chicken thighs recipe is the BOMB for chicken wings!

Studies have also found that pastured poultry is better for us. In 2013 a study commissioned by the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association found meat from pastured poultry was higher in vitamins E, D3 and had a 69% lower ratio of Omega 6 to 3 compared to non-pastured poultry. Higher ratios have been linked to inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer and autoimmune disorders.

How long have you been chicken farming?
I have been owned by some sort of bird all my life. I made the leap into doing this for a living 5 years ago.

What motivated you to start?
My motivation to start Cripple Crow Ranch was my love for birds and my need for a stronger connection with the land.

What are some of your greatest joys?
In a way, this is a spiritual thing for me. The chicken people are a labour of love, and a source of great entertainment.  They are everything. I love them. I love being around then, talking to them, laughing at them, caring for them, heck just watching them. They’re a gas. I enjoy my life when I am with them. I deeply respect these birds … who give us their all.

What is your vision for your farm?
Our goal is health and happiness throughout the whole system. Healthy and happy birds, farmers, land, food and customers. It’s so simple, it’s revolutionary!

Why is local food and/or local purchasing important to you?
It’s about supporting one another to be able to live locally and eat well locally.

If you could deliver a message directly to Co-op members and customers, what would it be?
I am so thankful that the Co-op purchases Cripple Crow Ranch chicken and makes it available to my community. And I am thankful for this wonderful community that recognizes the value of locally produced, premium, healthy food. People here value good food and have a consciousness and care for where it comes from. It is my firm belief that in that sense, farmers in the Kootenays are truly blessed.

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