In the past century, the process of how food arrives to our tables has become increasingly impersonal.
Our grandparents likely knew the farmer who grew their vegetables and raised their poultry, but, today, we probably don’t, and in some cases, we aren’t even doing our own shopping, let alone engaging with the producers of the goods that go into our grocery sacks. That disconnect has a number of repercussions on farmers, on animals, on the environment and on our own health.
Farmer Focus aims to change that.
When Corwin Heatwole, founding farmer and CEO of Farmer Focus, first envisioned a different model of chicken farming, his first priority was improving the lives and livelihood of generational chicken farmers. A sixth-generation chicken farmer himself, Heatwole was keenly aware his own farm was not financially sustainable enough to pass down to his children, so he began seeking out a solution. After talking with other farmers, he concluded upending the traditional “integrator model” and giving farmers ownership of their birds and decision-making power on their farms would make the greatest impact.
While the traditional model employed by larger poultry producers is to maintain ownership of the chickens and feed, Farmer Focus farming partners own everything on their farms. For these farmers, that means not only alleviating much of the financial toll of market fluctuations and competition, it also affords them more control and nets them higher pay for their products — 25-35% more on average. Farmer Focus guarantees its farmers a fair market price.
“Our mission is to promote and protect generational family farming,” Heatwole said. “We’re the fastest growing organic chicken brand in the country, and we’ve achieved that because farmers want to partner with us, and our customers are invested in our mission.”
In addition to economic factors, the Farmer Focus model allows farmers to be more invested in the process. Farmers typically doesn’t just meet the third-party standards required of them, such as non-GMO, 100% organic and Humane Certified, they often exceed them. Many Farmer Focus farmers feel empowered to use sustainable and regenerative farming methods to improve animal welfare, while creating greater efficiencies.
There are plenty of benefits for the consumer as well, and those go beyond the health-centric aspects of consuming 100% organic, non-GMO foods. Being aware of what we’re putting in our bodies and knowing where our food comes from are equally important. Every package of Farmer Focus chicken has a farm ID code printed on it that allows consumers to trace their chicken back to the farmer who raised it. They can see the farm practices, learn about who is working on that farm and ask questions.
“Our farm ID system connects people to their farmers,” Heatwole said. “They’ll not only know who’s raising their food, they’re able to see all of how our farmers go beyond just organic.”
Farmer Focus Organic Chicken can be found at Meijer, Bridge Street Market and Fresh Thyme. More information about Farmer Focus’ commitment to its farmers is online.