On May 4 Animal Welfare Approved hosted an expert panel of writers, farmers and representatives of sustainable livestock production. Entitled, “Green Pastures, Bright Future: Taking the Meat We Eat Out of the Factory and Putting it Back on the Farm," the discussion centered on the need for truly sustainable livestock farming that takes into account animal welfare and the health of our environment - and ourselves. Panelists included investigative journalist and author of Animal Factory David Kirby; author of the bestselling Righteous Porkchop Nicolette Hahn Niman; chicken farmer and whistle-blower in the Oscar-nominated documentary “Food, Inc.” Carole Morison; and rancher, veterinarian and president of the American Grassfed Association, Dr. Patricia Whisnant.
April and Brad Thatcher raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) laying hens at April Joy Farm in Ridgefield, Washington. The farm was the first pork producer in the Pacific Northwest region to achieve Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW certification. Though owners Brad and April Thatcher have temporarily suspended pork production to better balance consumer demand and farm system goals, they plan to re-certify once production is resumed in their new system—and already have a waiting list of future customers! Animal welfare is a top priority at April Joy Farm and, in keeping with that philosophy, the farm recently achieved Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW certification for their laying hens.
The mission of April Joy Farm is to grow a sustainable, place-based food economy by building relationships with local chefs and community members. The certified organic produce grown at April Joy Farm is sold entirely within Clark County. April and Brad practice advanced land and animal stewardship at an impactful, community scale. For over a decade, the farm has provided a wide array of heirloom and specialty fruits, vegetables, herbs through direct sales, CSA and restaurant channels. “Animals are an integral part of April Joy Farm,” says April. “Our poultry flock works hard on behalf of the April Joy Farm community. The roosters are friendly to people, but take their guard duties seriously. The hens are active, free roaming foragers, who contribute significantly to our organic pest and weed management program and remain diligent about egg production. All the chickens look forward to harvest days, when the vegetable scraps from the packing shed are theirs to dine on.”
April Joy Farm is committed to encouraging the natural behaviors of their laying hens, raising them outdoors on pasture where they can flap their wings freely, run, dust bathe, and peck and scratch for grubs and seeds. 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. April and Brad believe responsible animal husbandry requires intelligence, patience, attentiveness and thoughtful kindness: “Livestock animals contribute immensely to the welfare of humans. Our job is to respect their gifts and encourage their natural abilities.”
As April explains, the name April Joy Farm is a tribute to spring: “Through rough weather and difficult times of uncertainty, we hold fast to the memory of spring, of the joy that is easy to experience on warm April days.”