Black Duck Farm is a small family-owned farm located in Glen Nevis, Ontario. We currently produce pastured chickens and expanded into pastured turkeys in 2018.
We have fed our birds different diets over the past 3 years, but have settled on producing both conventional and organic grain-fed chickens in different batches. In 2018 we produced one batch of chickens on conventional feed, and one batch on organic grains. This allows you, the customer, to decide whether the premium price of organic is important to you, without having to compromise on the quality that is a pastured bird. Speaking of pasturing, our animals are moved every couple of days to fresh grass, seeds, and insects, in a rotation.
This rotation allows us to produce superior chicken in taste, nutrient density, and health, all while not needing any medication and while improving the quality of our pastures. We have also managed to not use the same portion of our pasture for each batch, hereby ensuring the best bio-security for the animals. In a few years, as we expand and produce more batches, we will overlap the areas, but by then, pasture fertility and carrying capacity will have grown enough that pest cycles will be reliably broken.
Speaking of the farm, we farmed my neighbour’s backyard in Glen Norman in 2016, our startup year. This was convenient, but limited us to 300 chickens in that year – the non-quota limit here in Ontario. When all chickens were sold rather rapidly, it soon became evident that we needed a larger parcel that we owned, so we could join the newly-formed Artisanal Chicken Program.
So I purchased this 20 acre lot in 2016. It is located a few minutes from our home, a corner lot, with a roughly equal parts of pasture, forest and badly-draining forest, or “marsh”. To a cash crop farmer, this land is useless – marshy, rocky, treed, sandy on the ridges and clayey in the valleys – but to a diversified farm like we hope to create, it is perfect and full of potential. Potential for pastured poultry, waterfowl, smaller ruminants and pigs, orchards and nut groves, maple syrup, forest products, the list goes on!
The field was being cut for hay by a local beef producer that abandoned it after it got “too weedy”. Perfect for chickens! So phase one of farm establishment is adding fertility to the land. You can see the following pictures for an idea how well that is going. A single pass of chickens in 2017 at least doubled the available biomass during the 2018 farming season.
Then, spring 2018, we added a diversified orchard of apples, pears, plums, and cherries. We used the Miracle Orchard method, which you can learn more at miracle.farm. I planted over 40 trees and 75 small fruits such as elderberries, gooseberries, raspberries, seabuckthorn, and currants, as well as an asparagus patch. Joining the orchard in 2019 will be haskaps, wild plums, hazelnuts, more elderberries, and possibly blueberries as well. More fruit trees should join the farm in 2020.