THE PRODUCER – Home of cultured chicks

By Bri Levandowski

 

The barn is her favorite place to be.

Though she says winter is the best time to be there, even in the heat of an Iowa summer, Mary Hillman, her chickens and her ducks enjoy doing their job on the 100-year-old farm, listening to NPR and classical music. She calls it the “home of the cultured chicks.”

Mary’s Farm and Garden began as a way for Mary Hillman to continue farming after her daughters left home for college.

Mary’s Farm and Garden began as a way for Mary Hillman to continue farming after her daughters left home for college.

Hillman started Mary’s Farm and Garden at 1132 X Ave. in Grand Junction after her daughters went to college. She wanted to keep farming but had no mouths to feed, so her produce and poultry farm took off as a business.

“I started farming — well, my whole life,” Hillman said. “As long as I can remember, I’ve been farming poultry.”

The youngest daughter of farmers with no sons, Hillman began working the henhouse at age 5, gathering eggs and preparing them for market.

Hillman now has more than 400 birds, from ducks to hens and pullets — hens too young to lay eggs regularly — and she cares for them all daily.

“You have an obligation as a farmer to take good care of your livestock,” she said. She gives her birds fresh food — she adds flaxseed to enhance the taste of the egg — and water at least twice a day, and her hens are always sitting on fresh straw. “They have a pretty darn good life,” she added.

Her 200 laying hens give her more than 700 eggs per week, selling nearly 60 dozen to various restaurants and markets. After approximately two years, hens stop producing eggs regularly. That’s when they’re sent to the butcher. Her pullets, which usually take six months to produce laying-hen-quality eggs, will replace them.

In her variety of chickens, the most common egg is tinted a light brown. Her favorites, though, are what she calls Easter egg chickens, which lay green, sometimes blue and occasionally pink eggs.

Hillman’s produce is sold on her Grand Junction farm. She tries to teach the importance of caring for animals, living a healthy lifestyle and cooking from scratch.

“Nothing is better than a home-cooked meal that you know you helped to raise,” she said.

As for her business goals? She’s ready to teach people how to cherish the soil and respect the environment.

“I’m hoping it’s going to help rejuvenate Iowa.” RELISH

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Categories: The Producer

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