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Local Vendor Spotlight: Dewberry Hills Farm

Really Good Chicken — We Promise:

Good Stewardship  All our animals are raised compassionately and with a deep appreciation of the gift they give us. We never fed them anything we would be afraid to eat ourselves. By managing the pastures properly and rotating our chickens, we naturally fertilize and restore the earth.

Environmental Responsibility  We work with the seasons and the land. We recycle every part of the chicken but the feathers. We minimize the fossil fuel imprint by only selling locally.

Absolute Honesty  We encourages farm visits by appointment. (Drop-in visitors will be handed a shovel and put to work!) Come see for yourself.

Community Building  We try to source all our supplies locally and we do 95% of our business with small businesses in the area. Our special grain mixture is grown and ground just 15 miles down the road which helps support another farmer in Lee County.

Dewberry Hills Farm, owned by Jane and Terry Levan, has been a partner here at Wheatsville since 2008.  Jane’s a former city slicker who’d always dreamed of moving to the country. Terry was raised on a farm in northern Illinois and majored in livestock nutrition while at university. Terry was disheartened by what was being taught—methods that turned animals into commercial commodities with complete disregard to both the health of the animal and the quality and safety of the meat produced.

In 1999, they purchased 20 acres near Lexington Texas, about 50 miles from Austin. After reading Joel Salatin’s books on beef and poultry, they agreed this was the model they would use—diverse, sustainable and run in accordance with nature. They realized that the best use of their limited acreage was to focus on raising really good chicken for their neighbors in the city. They still use sustainable natural methods—rotating their pastures, moving the tents daily and processing onsite.

The life of a farmer can be very difficult. The weather is a huge factor and is beyond the control of the farmer. Here in Texas we have heat and thunderstorms and hurricanes and the occasional cold snap. Another substantial factor is predators. All sorts of wildlife like to eat chickens—from coyotes to predatory birds. There are some collateral pests, like feral hogs, that do not necessarily want to eat the chickens, but want the chicken’s feed and water. The damage can destroy the chicken’s shelter and feeders.

For most chicken farms, the way to deal with both of these issues is to house the chickens in a barn. Controlled climates and four walls will solve both of those issues. Jane and Terry use a different method, based on the Salatin model. “Tents” are constructed in the pasture to work more closely with the needs of the land and the animals. This allows protection from the elements and relative security. A chicken’s digestive system requires small rocks or pebbles to aid in digestion. By letting them roam from an open shelter, they are able to keep busy engaging in what chickens do and they stay happy and healthy. By moving the tents frequently, the fields are fertilized by the chickens.

One of Jane and Terry’s biggest problems, and they agree that it is a good problem, is keeping up with the demand for their chicken. As Wheatsville was setting up it’s own expansion to a second location, Terry and Jane decided it was time to grow as well. Overcoming the limitations of cold storage and the number of chickens they can raise at a time, takes money and time. Luckily Jane and Terry have always supported their fellow local farmers and that kind of goodwill, has been rewarded. Having investment partners like David Perkins at Beatnik Foods and having a guaranteed placement of their product is bringing that expansion to a reality.

Over the years of our relationship with the Dewberry Hills Farm, we have brought in everything that we can, up to and including chicken feet. With the help of Wheatsville owners we have been able to help Dewberry Hills Farm utilize the whole bird and contribute to their sustainability as a business and as stewards of their land and animals.

One of the best things about having such great local products is being able to shake the hand of the person that is raising your food. We have known Terry and Jane now for about nine years and it is always a pleasure to work and grow with them.

Terry’s Simple Roast Chicken

Ingredients:
1 Dewberry Hills broiler
Fresh finely chopped rosemary 4-5 sprigs
Fresh finely chopped garlic 3-4 cloves
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Mix garlic and rosemary in olive oil.
3. Gently loosen skin on chicken breast by sliding your hand underneath skin without tearing.
4. Rub skin under breast with oil-herb mixture. Use any leftover mix in cavity.
5. Place chicken breast side up in rack on roasting pan.
6. Roast at 450° for 15-20 minutes or until skin begins to turn a light golden brown.
7. Carefully flip chicken over (Inserting a wooden spoon in the cavity helps with this) and roast an additional 15-20 minutes. Immediately turn oven down to 350°. Turn bird several times as it roasts. It will take about 1.5 hours total to roast a 4.5 pound bird. Your chicken is done when a meat thermometer inserted in the breast reaches 165°.
8. Remove chicken from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Warning: as you roast the chicken, a wonderful smell pervades your kitchen and may attract members of your family.

To read Jane’s own words about farming visit
wheatsville.coop/news-and-events/news/dewberry-hills-chicken#more

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