In 2008, Jennifer Curtis and Tina Prevatte Levy, Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of Firsthand Foods, merged…
BJ and Amanda Callahan started their agricultural journey shortly after college while they were living in Denver, Colorado. As newlyweds, they became increasingly interested in food and cooking, and decided to start growing fresh ingredients in a small backyard garden. They added three chickens and were soon hooked on growing fresh food and raising animals.
In 2001, BJ and Amanda moved to South Carolina and started Callywood Farms, raising laying hens and a keeping small garden. The next year, they increased the size of their layer flock and began raising meat birds. Since then, BJ and Amanda have continued to expand their farm and now raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener world (AGW) pigs, laying hens, meat chickens and turkeys.
Callywood Farms is located in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in beautiful, upstate South Carolina. “Our 15 acres is mostly wooded, aside from our small area of pasture where the Freedom Ranger meat birds live,” says BJ. “Our hens have full access to the pasture as well, though they choose to spend most of their days foraging the woods for bugs. Our pigs live on 4 acres of wooded land which not only keeps them cool during the hot summer days but provides them with an abundance of flavorful acorns during the fall finishing season. We also have several natural springs on the property which we use to water the animals.”
BJ and Amanda manage a herd of Gloucestershire Old Spot pigs at Callywood Farms, raising 1-2 litters a year. The Gloucestershire Old Spot was developed in England in the 1800s. The docile and intelligent breed is known for their thriftiness and foraging abilities, making them an excellent addition to a pasture-based family farm like Callywood Farms. “They love their 4 acres of woods and we are very proud of the lean flavorful meat they produce,” says BJ. “In addition to natural forage, they are supplemented with a grain feed that is non-GE and locally grown (when available). They also enjoy homegrown vegetable treats from the garden and waste whey from a local organic dairy.”
BJ and Amanda also raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW meat chickens and laying hens at Callywood Farms. “Our meat birds are Freedom Rangers, which grow about 50 percent slower than Cornish Cross breeds used on industrial chicken operations and are much more suited to living outside and foraging,” says BJ. “They live in protected pens at night but are free to range inside their large electric fence area during the day, which includes pasture, woods and a stream.” The flock of laying hens at Callywood Farms are also raised outdoors on pasture where they can perform natural behaviors like running, dust bathing, pecking and scratching for grubs and seeds. “We have about 60-75 laying hens at any time,” says BJ. “They are a collection of about a dozen traditional breeds, primarily Buff Orpington, Barred Rock, Americanas, in addition to our ‘Callywoods Hybrids,’ which are hens that have been bred on the farm. Most of these are crosses between traditional breeds and Americanas and produce wonderful green eggs.” Pasture-based management not only provides the highest welfare conditions for the hens, but also produces healthier eggs containing three times as much vitamin E, seven times more beta-carotene, and twice the omega-3 fatty acids as industrial eggs.
Maintaining close, hands-on and attentive management is a fundamental part of Amanda and BJ’s high-welfare, pasture-based animal husbandry practices: “As a small family operation, everything involved in the care of the livestock is done by us and by hand. We only raise animals as an extension of the way that we want to eat as a family, so we go to great lengths to ensure the wellbeing of the animals. We are also very particular about what they eat and are able to take advantage of our natural resources on the farm to feed them the best possible natural diet,” says BJ. “Pasture-based management leads to better tasting, more nutritious and ethically raised meat. It’s all about the quality of the food. Pasture is what animals would seek naturally in the wild and we aim to provide them with a life that most closely resembles that natural life cycle.”
BJ and Amanda chose to pursue AGW certification because, according to BJ, “We want to belong to a group of farmers that were knowledgeable about the best research-based animal husbandry practices out there. While we have gained knowledge through our experience with the farm, we also realize that we will always have more to learn and that being party of a community of like-minded farms is the best way to do that. We also want our customers to see the level of commitment we have to our animals by staying actively compliant with AGW standards.”
In the future, BJ and Amanda plan to continue farming in a way they would want to feed their own family. “As our family’s needs grow, so will our farming goals. This keeps us small and keeps the highest level of standard applicable to what and how we grow.” BJ and Amanda are also very excited to expand in few areas. They began cultivating culinary mushrooms with great success and look to expand into local sales with those in the coming years. “We are always working to increase the productivity of our vegetable garden so that we can eat as much ‘farm to table’ as we can, and we would also like to offer vegetable starts from the greenhouse in the spring.” BJ and Amanda also hope to acquire more acreage of pasture land to raise sheep and a small herd of cattle.
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pork, chicken, turkey and eggs are available directly from the farm. Meat birds and pork are sold from the farm on a deposit based, pre-order system (order forms and information can be found at www.CallywoodFarms.com. The meat birds are sold whole and dressed and are slaughtered and processed on the farm for same day pickup on pre-determined days each year. Pork is sold as half-hog shares. BJ and Amanda take deposits on pork when the years’ litter is born each spring. Eggs are sold on the farm by appointment only. For more information, visit www.callywoodfarms.com or the farm’s Facebook page. Contact BJ Callahan at email@example.com or 864-280-3779.