Vanessa Quiñones raises Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens outdoors on pasture at The Victory Garden Farm in Fredonia, Wisconsin.
Vanessa grew up spending time with her grandparents on their family farm, which she just considered ‘grandma and grandpa’s house.’ But it wasn’t until she moved away and traveled that she found herself called back to farming.
Vanessa pursued internships and took up the position of farm manger to learn the ropes before purchasing her own farm in 2015 with her partner, Andrew Wallock. “Knowing where food comes from has always been very important to me, and as I began to grow my own food and learn about animal husbandry, I realized I love being outside,” she says. “I love animals and I knew I wanted to be a farmer.”
Vanessa currently raises 100 traditional breed laying hens according to A Greener World’s Certified Animal Welfare Approved standards outdoors on 5 acres of pasture. She is now in her third year on the farm. Vanessa selected a mix of traditional breed birds, all ideally suited to pasture-based management, including Black Australorp, Barred Rock, Araucana, Cuckoo Marans and Silver Laced Wyandotte. “Our birds are completely pasture-raised, they are only fenced off from the garden,” Vanessa explains. “My goal is to create an environment where the birds are free to be chickens and perform natural behaviors like running, dust bathing, pecking and scratching for grubs and seeds. Being outdoors keeps the birds healthy and they have access to fresh air, sunshine and natural food—and the birds add fertilization to the land, creating a higher-quality system where all the pieces work together.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW was a great fit to communicate Vanessa’s commitment to high-welfare, pasture-based farming and sustainability to her customers in what can be a confusing marketplace: “I wanted to give my customers peace of mind knowing that I adhere to strict standards for the way I raise my animals,” says Vanessa. “There’s a lot of confusion and mislabeling, and there’s a clear marketing incentive to use words because they sound good. My Animal Welfare Approved certification shows that I’ve taken the time to follow certain rules and regulations, and to be held accountable by auditors coming out and visiting the farm.”
Long term, Vanessa is looking to expand her operation, but explains that the balance of the land and the animals will always come first: “I am working to expand production to meet the demand for pasture-raised, high-welfare eggs, but I want to do that work slowly and organically, and never at the cost of pushing the land past what it can reasonably sustain.” Over time, Vanessa hopes to connect with more people and educate them about sustainable, high-welfare farming. “I was actually vegetarian for a long time because of the welfare issues inherent in conventional production systems,” she adds. “Knowing where my food comes from is very important to me personally, and I want my customers to know that when they purchase pasture-raised, Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW eggs they are supporting a better system—better for farmers, for animals, the land and their own health, too.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pasture-raised eggs from The Victory Garden Farm are available at Goodside Grocery and direct from the farm. In the 2018 season, an egg CSA option will be available. For more information, visit www.foodforvictory.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow the farm on Facebook @foodforvictory, Instagram @theVGF and Twitter @theVGF.