posted by Susie Middleton
If I were a chicken, I’d like to belong to Doug Brush. I’d have fresh grass to snack on every day, all the bugs I could eat, plenty of water, plus vegetable scraps from The Sweet Life restaurant. I’d get to live on scenic Flat Point Farm in a spiffy A-frame condo with lots of room to stretch my legs and good protection from varmits. And, when a freezing rain whips up in the middle of the night, I’d get to see Doug in his pajamas racing over to our pen, a bundle of little tiny wool chicken sweaters in hand.
Granted, I would be a short-lived broiler bird. But I’d be happy to know that I was “reserved.” Because I’d be part of Doug’s new CSC—Community Supported Chicken—program. Some lucky chicken-eater would’ve pre-paid for the honor of picking me up at the farm on June 21, after I’d been treated to a clean, safe, and humane…departure. Pretty swell, huh?
Flat Point Pastured Poultry is the brainchild of Doug, 26, and his business partner, Jeff Munroe, 28. The two are new to farming, but they’ve done their homework. They modeled the CSC after the widely admired sustainable livestock programs pioneered by Virginia farmer and grazing guru Joel Salatin (whose ideas my fellow blogger Maryellen Driscoll and her husband have also adapted at Free Bird Farm). Flat Point’s “chicken tractor” is a Salatin design modified to allow a bit more headroom (though not quite enough for 6’2” Doug, at left).
The ingenious floorless pen, which rolls on PVC pipes, provides fresh grass for the chickens to feast on every day, while the birds leave behind just the right amount of fertilizer to re-grow the grass. One 12’ x 12’ pen holds 75 birds, allowing each about 2 square feet—a humane standard much greater than the industry standard of 1.3 square feet.
In the spirit of Joel Salatin’s transparent farming practices, the birds will also be slaughtered humanely right on the farm, thanks to Island Grown Initiative’s new Mobile Poultry Processing Trailer (MPPT), which Doug helped research two years ago. The MPPT, a compact unit operated by a trained crew, is a short-term solution to the cost and stress of transporting off-island. Already it’s encouraging more islanders like Doug to raise chickens.
But for Doug, who works as a teaching assistant at Oak Bluffs School, chickens are just a start. He and his new wife Emily Fischer are working on a financial plan for a goat dairy. I have no doubt their goat cheese will be delicious and their goats well cared for. But in the meantime, a few lucky chickens are living the sweet life on Flat Point Farm.