Meet Corwin Heatwole, founder of @FarmerFocus, an innovative chicken company and Applegate supplier. He gave us the scoop on how he's changing chicken farms for good.
Q: Tell us how you got into chicken farming?
A: I’m a sixth-generation farmer so I guess you could say I was born into it. Growing up I thought our family farm would sustain my family like it had for generations. At 23 I bought my first chickens and started farming on my own. What I quickly found was that the farming I did as a child had changed. It became all about farmer contracts, competition style payment to farmers and packed chicken houses.
I wanted to get back what I missed, the community, the freedom, and that entrepreneurial feel of my family’s farm. So, I got together with the smartest farmers I knew and asked them something simple: “What is the one thing you would change about your farm?” Every one of them wanted to own their own birds and feed. With that insight I started Farmer Focus, a 100% organic chicken company that empowers farmers to make decisions that are best for their farms, their birds and our planet.
Q: You weren't always organic. Why did you switch?
A: With traditional feed you don’t know what’s in there, and that formula could change weekly without your knowledge. With organic, you know what you’re feeding your bird. Ours get their nutrients from organic, vegetarian ingredients rather than animal by-product or synthetics. Organic is just the starting point for us though, our farms are certified humane through two third-party organizations and every package traces back to one of our more than 60 independent family farms.
Q: We hear some scary stories about how chickens are raised. What is life like for your chickens?
A: Every one of our farms is certified USDA Organic, Certified Humane, GAP Step 3 Certified and Non-GMO Project Verified. What that means in practice is that our birds have access to the outdoors if weather permits, more space to live naturally and enrichments that encourage natural behavior. We hold every farmer to those standards, but many go far beyond them. We have farmers that spend cold nights with their birds to ensure the house stays warm enough. There is a farm family that makes “chicknic” tables – think picnic-- for their birds, a perch that makes it look like the birds are gathered for a nice family meal. Our farmers genuinely care and that translates to a high quality of life for the birds.