While both Dana Tryde and Eric Michielssen had grandparents that worked the land, their parents chose to leave the family farms. But when the couple first met in 1999, Dana and Eric quickly learned of their similar family legacies and their shared interest in returning to the land. In 2002, they established Clark Valley Farm and Horse Boarding in Los Osos, California, where they ran a diverse organic produce operation and sustainably-managed horse facility. In 2010, they settled at Pozo Organic Farm in the tiny community of Pozo, 25 miles east of San Luis Obispo. In addition to the horses that Dana and Eric brought from the old farm and the row crops, berries, and fruit trees they are growing, the farm is now home to a flock of Animal Welfare Approved laying hens.
Pozo Organic Farm’s Partridge Chantecler chickens are a traditional dual breed (known for good egg laying and meat quality) and highly regarded for their resilience to harsh winters. Dana is developing a breeding program which allows her to save for favorable traits in her flock through careful selection and monitoring. Eventually, she hopes that, in addition to meeting the farm’s needs for new egg layers, local farmers will be able to purchase her Chantecler chicks, rather than relying on poultry hatcheries in other regions.
Being able to hatch their own chickens on-farm contributes to the farms self-reliance, but it is only one part of their pursuit of sustainability. “If a farm is going to be successful, it is in its best interest to mimic nature, not change it,” says Dana. “Our emphasis shouldn’t be just on animal nutrition or grazing methods, but on creating a whole system that mimics nature.” Currently, Pozo Organic benefits from the added fertility that chicken manure provides, but Dana and Eric want to continue to improve the health of their farm as a whole unit by producing more of the chicken feed on the farm and by adding a larger livestock species to the farm. “For example, a ruminant species could work symbiotically with the chickens in a rotational grazing system that would also benefit the crops that are grown on the farm,” Dana explains.
Eric and Dana pursued Animal Welfare Approved certification for their flock of laying hens primarily because the program’s stringent welfare requirements match Pozo Organic Farm’s animal husbandry practices. “But AWA’s range of technical and marketing assistance for farmers were also a welcome benefit” adds Dana.
Pozo Organic Farm pastured eggs are available at farmers’ markets and retail locations in the San Luis Obispo area. Chantecler chicks are also available on a limited basis direct from the farm. Visit www.PozoOrganicFarm.com for more information.