Melissa Driscoll raises Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) laying hens on pasture at Seven Songs Organic Farm in Kenyon, Minnesota.
Melissa developed an interest in sustainable farming at an early age. She sold garden vegetables alongside her mother at farmers’ markets and raised chickens for 4H. As a young adult, Melissa continued her interest in farming and worked with the Philadelphia Community Farm CSA in Osceola, Wisconsin, and at Gardens of Eagan Organic Farm in Eagan, Minnesota, selling wholesale to co-operatives in the Twin Cities.
After searching for nearly three years with her husband, Jay, the couple bought 7 acres of land in early 2010 that would become Seven Songs Organic Farm. “It was a challenge, but we learned a lot during our long search for this land. We’re always happy to talk with other beginning farmers about our experience and the resources we’ve found helpful for finding land,” says Melissa.
The farm is located on the gently rolling hills between Kenyon and Wanamingo, with excellent black prairie soil, a large barn, a granary building and a moderate-sized hoop house for growing produce out of season. Melissa raises Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW Delaware breed laying hens, which she chose because of their excellent ranging and foraging, and the large brown eggs they lay. “The most important aspect of how we raise chickens is the fact that they can range outdoors at will during the day and can therefore do normal chicken activities like establish a pecking order, dust-bathe, search for green growing food and insects to eat, and wander through the tall grass,” Melissa explains. “About a year ago we built an “Eggmobile” so that we can move the hens to greener pastures throughout the summer, and future garden areas can benefit from the chicken manure and pest-eating services the chickens provide.”
In 2015, she reared all her replacement stock under broody hens, eliminating the need to buy chicks to replace older birds. “Our goal is that all our hens are hatched on the farm and raised by a mother hen, and that they live on the farm for two or more years,” Melissa explains. “When it’s time, we drive our old hens about 15 minutes to a local on-farm slaughter plant for butchering and eat them ourselves.”
Melissa chose to join the Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW program because she felt the standards reflected her commitment to pasture-based management, and she recognized that certification was a valuable gesture of trust for her customers. “Once we were in the certification process we were impressed with the thoroughness and thoughtfulness of the standards,” says Melissa. “We had to change a feed ingredient and learning why was very educational.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pasture-raised chicken eggs from Seven Songs Organic Farm are available direct from the farm and seasonally at Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis. For more information, visit sevensongsfarm.com or call 507-789-8868. Follow the farm on Facebook.