Chris Loeffler is having a very active retirement: After 26 years as a public-school teacher in California and New Mexico, she started a second career as a farmer in the spring of 2014. The 56-acre plot that she and her husband own in Grants, New Mexico, is too dry for crops and too small for several cattle, so she decided to raise chickens. Chris has already increased her flock: “I have added another hen house and now have between 150 to 200 laying hens a year and 250 meat birds in the summer.”
Chris’s high-desert property, which sits at 8,000 feet elevation, is wooded with ponderosa pines and junipers, which her flock of Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) laying hens and meat chickens forage beneath. The laying flock includes many different breeds, including Buff Orpingtons, Silver Laced Wyandottes, Golden Comets and Rhode Island Reds. Chris favors breeds that are hardy enough to thrive in temperatures that can get as low as 30 degrees below zero in the winter and are adventurous foragers. The trees provide cover for her chickens and protect them from hawks. Chris believes in raising her birds outdoors, as they’re happier and healthier, when they can roam freely and perform natural behaviors. As well as providing delicious and nutritious eggs and meat, Chris hopes their manure will help improve the fertility of her volcanic soil.
Chris pursued Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW certification after learning about the program’s benefits from another certified farmer. “I saw a lot of benefits for Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW farms like grants for stunners and egg cartons,” she explains. “You really are there to help farmers who want to raise their animals in a better way. I intended to raise them that way anyway, so certification is an added bonus.”
Chris’s retirement hasn’t turned out to allow for much rest. Some days find her 15 feet up in a juniper tree to collect a roosting chicken, or waking at 5 a.m. to do chores before running errands. “The birds get me out of bed in the morning, that’s for sure,” she explains. “But it’s healthier to get out every morning than cozy up with a book and never move. I ached for the first six months as I worked muscles I hadn’t used in 26 years, but now I’m so much healthier. Better for me and better for the animals!”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pastured-raised chicken eggs and meat from Loeffler Farms are available at retail locations in the area and at local farmers’ markets. For more information, contact Chris at 505-350-5812 and firstname.lastname@example.org.