Every so often we get a visitor at CLUCK the Chicken Store who can’t wait to tell us that he thinks the whole idea of a chicken store is just the weirdest – not in a good way -- thing he’s ever heard of. But lately we’ve come across a couple of news stories that reassure us that we’re not far off base at all, at least by East Coast and West Coast standards.
We’ll admit we never heard of Modern Farmer magazine until we saw a story in The New Yorker last week about the founding editor, Ann Marie Gardner.
Ann Marie Gardner
For those not familiar with Modern Farmer, here is a brief excerpt from The New Yorker story:
Modern Farmer appeared in the spring of 2013. After three issues, it won a National Magazine Award; no other magazine had ever won so quickly. According to Gardner, though, Modern Farmer is less a magazine than an emblem of “an international life-style brand.” This is the life style of people who want to “eat food with a better backstory”—from slaughterhouses that follow humane practices, and from farmers who farm clean and treat their workers decently. Also, food cultists who like obscure foods and believe that fruits and vegetables taste different depending on where they are grown. Also, aspirational farmers, hobby farmers, intern farmers, student farmers, WWOOFers—people who take part in programs sponsored by the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms movement—and people who stay at hotels on farms where they eat things grown by the owners. Plus idlers in cubicles searching for cheap farmland and chicken fences and what kind of goats give the best milk. Such people “have a foot in each world, rural and urban,” Gardner says.
Modern Farmer certainly doesn’t represent all of our visitors, but we meet a surprising number of people at CLUCK who fall into at least one of those categories, so it’s not just an East Coast thing.
Choosing locally grown food, building a sustainable local food system and having an adventurous palate are close to the heart of what CLUCK is all about.
Sure, we get a lot of customers who are only looking for a fun, unusual shopping experience and clever chicken décor and gifts. But we also get an equal number of people who want to stay and talk about their animals, their gardens and how they are trying to integrate living a modern life with staying close to the natural world. For us, chickens are a gateway into a whole way of thinking and living in a way that values humane treatment of all animals and is mindful of our environment. We think there are millions of like-minded people, not just on the coasts, but right here in Wisconsin. In fact, with our incredible Dane County farmer’s market and an organic farming community that’s been leading the way for decades, our region in many ways is light years ahead of most of the world.
Meanwhile, from the other coast, comes this little story in the Silicone Valley Business Journal entitled “Meat is the New Kale.” Aside from the clever headline, the thing that caught our attention was the venue. If the medium is the message, what does it tell us that a story about hand-raised livestock (that comes perilously close to a Portlandia parody) appeared in a serious business journal that is read by many of America’s most cutting edge entrepreneurs?
Here’s a quick clip from that story: A hipster Thanksgiving fantasy can be had just outside Pescadero in San Mateo County, where Root Down Farms is raising turkeys, chickens and pigs in a sustainable way that treats the animals with respect. Dede Boies and David Evershed have made it their mission to raise food animals to meet to the standards of the Animal Welfare Approved food label.
That doesn’t only happen in California. We will get our Thanksgiving turkey from Katherine H., one of our customers, who hand-raises her birds in a thoughtful and humane way that respects each animal as an individual. Not only does her method make the turkey taste better, it makes us all feel better on Thanksgiving and every other day.
So maybe it isn’t so weird after all.