Originally from West Palm Beach, Florida, Marissa Buchanan took an interest in agriculture early in life. After her family moved to Tennessee, Marissa’s dad raised goats, pigs and Angus beef cattle for their family’s consumption. In high school, Marissa was involved with the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and became interested in landscape design and nursery development. She also spent time working on a nearby cattle operation, where she gained practical experience of working on a farm and learned the financial and business components of operating a successful farm business. She served in the army for 9 years and after the birth of her second child, Marissa transitioned back to her roots and began farming—with a special focus on conserving rare and lesser known breeds of birds. Marissa now raises Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) laying hens, breeding chickens and laying geese at Buchanan’s Barnyard, on the land that her husband’s family has farmed for generations.
Marissa manages a flock of AGW-certified laying hens and breeding chickens, which include breeds such as Isbars, Bantams and Ayam Cemanis, a unique breed that originated in Indonesia and has a recessive gene producing hyperpigmentation—and a completely black bird, inside and out. The flock is raised outdoors on pasture, where the birds are able to perform natural behaviors, like running, dust bathing, pecking and scratching for grubs and seeds.
In addition to the Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens and breeding chickens, Marissa also manages a flock of AGW-certified laying geese. “I raise White and Brown Chinese Geese—also known as Swan Geese,” says Marissa. “The geese are active foragers, which helps us save on feed costs. We let them out in the field, and they do their thing. The breeds we raise are vocal with good temperaments—but they’re also good watchdogs!”
For Marissa, the most important part of her animal husbandry practices is a focus on strong genetics. “I really try to keep the genetic diversity strong,” says Marissa. “If somebody is carrying a lethal gene, I’m not going to breed those. If there’s a bird that is a good mother, I try to keep those in the line. Isbars are very predator-aware, which is extremely helpful for the locations of our farm.”
Marissa wanted to pursue AGW certification for some of the species on her farm because the label stands out. “There are a lot of people that go to the grocery stores and don’t know about labels. When it comes down to it, most labels lie, but the AGW label stands out as one that is fact forward and transparent. I wanted to stand out above competitors by making claims that are verified—and gaining a certification where there are clearly defined standards and no wiggle room.”
In the future, Marissa hopes to grow Buchanan’s Barnyard so that is known within the region. She is helped on the farm by her husband, Cameron Buchanan. “He built the barn and has been supportive through it all. He helps me with everything I do—he just can’t deal with the geese!”
AGW-certified chicken eggs, goose eggs and breeding chickens from Buchanan’s Barnyard are available directly from the farm. Eggs for hatching and consumption can be shipped; please visit buchanansbarnyard.com for information on ordering. For more information about the farm, visit the farm’s Facebook page and Instagram account or contact Marissa Buchanan at firstname.lastname@example.org and 423-836-4138.