MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We've been talking all about "House and Home" today and many of us share our homes with an animal, like a dog, maybe a cat, perhaps a hamster, maybe, I don't know, some fish. What about chickens or geese? A growing number of people in our region are becoming backyard farmers.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Looking to improve their diets and save a few bucks as food prices go through the roof. Armando Trull headed to Spotsylvania, Va. to meet one of these homegrown farmers.
MR. ARMANDO TRULL
It's been five decades since Lara Brooks first cupped a tiny, yellow chick in her palms. It's a job she learned at a tender age.
MS. LARA BROOKS
I remember my uncle, when I was two years old, sending me in to feed little chicks in a brooder and I had no idea what a brooder was. All I saw was a round light in dark shed with a circle around it and these little puffballs and I was supposed to take care of them.
Lara Brooks is now the mother hen of a small organic egg and produce farm that she runs from her backyard in Spotsylvania.
I was always economically challenged. As a single mother with two children, I always kept a garden. The health benefits are incredible in addition to the cost benefits.
Brooks uses natural feed for her 120 chickens and she avoids chemical or genetically enhanced pesticides or herbicides.
That really is a danger to our future generations. I do not give steroids, antibiotics, anything unnatural of any kind to my hens.
Brooks' eggs are organically certified by the state and she collects them twice a day from the red clapboard barn she uses as a coop.
Three blue eggs, one white and one brown egg. Now, here's a hen sitting in a nest. She might get a little possessive. She just pecked my thumb. Lift her up a little bit and I've got my hand under her and, very warm, and there's one egg under her and it's beautiful. It's a jumbo, light brown egg. She's still talking to me, get away she says.
The fowls run around freely in Brooks' backyard. Some of them will wind up on the dinner plate.
I do slaughter roosters but I don't slaughter any of hens because I think that the hens have done their work. They've given what they needed to give in life's circle.
Organic farms like Lara Brooks are one of the fastest growing segments of the agricultural industry, particularly, as people's grocery bills rise and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says food prices rose almost four percent in March alone. For local food producers like Lara Brooks, the silver lining is the spike in demand for their products.
People, vendors, everyone are eager to get their hands on local foods. I have been met in the last with more acceptance than I have in the last five.
One of the people who buys organic eggs from Lara Brooks is butcher Lee Russell, who sells them at his old butcher shop in Fredericksburg.
MR. LEE RUSSELL
The free-range chicken eggs is something that, it's better than what you can buy elsewhere.
Russell is sharpening his knife, as he gets ready to make some red-hot chipolata sausage. Russell says that in his experience, local produce is less effected by hikes in food prices, but that's not the only reason he uses organic eggs.
You can't manufacture an egg that has the taste and the protein in it unless you use a free-range chicken.
Customer Brenda Solls says organic eggs have other benefits.
MS. BRENDA SOLLS
I always say I like my antibiotics prescribed by a doctor not in my meat.
Lara Brooks hears similar comments from other customers and she says they make it worthwhile to get up with the chickens each morning.
Knowing that people are coming in, buying for a healthy price, the eggs that I've collected, hand-collected, hand-washed, hand-sorted, from hens that I've chosen based on the pallet of the colors of eggs they lay and they're treated with love, this is humane and it's humane in a full circle way.
Brooks is building more organic planters in her backyard for her herbs and vegetables.
Economically, it's not making me rich. It's a labor of love but it's really, at this point, a lifestyle choice for me because I choose to be off the grid.
But not so far off the grid that she won't use a few modern conveniences like social media.
On Twitter, I'm justgotlayed, L-A-Y-E-D.
And that's no yolk.
That's no yolk.
If you tweet Lara, she may share tips about growing your own fruits and veggies and if you're into chickens, she might even explain what a brooder is. I'm Armando Trull.
You can take a photo tour of Lara Brooks' chicken farm and see how the sausage is made at the old butcher shop in Fredericksburg on our website, metroconnection.org.
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