On the Road to Plow Point Farms in Monroe, GA & a recipe for Armagnac Chicken
Chickens. I bet we eat chicken at least two times a week, if not more, in our house. We have become more concerned than ever about the chickens we eat, so we decided to go On the Road to meet with a small family farm that raises chickens, Plow Point Farms. Or as my husband Roger says, we went to visit the chicken ranch. 😉
Do you know that there are approximately 23 million chickens killed each day in the United States for food? Over 300 million chickens are raised and harvested in South Carolina alone on an annual basis. The numbers are staggering and you have to ask how we can possibly raise them fast enough. That is where most of us probably don’t want to know the story.
We pass many trucks hauling thousands of chickens to processing plants on our frequent trips to the mountains in North Carolina. Feathers are flying and the chickens are tightly packed in cages. The living conditions for most of these birds is horrific. As Chef Sean Brock (of McCrady’s and Husk restaurants in Charleston, SC) said in our interview with him, “Every time you buy food, you cast a vote. Here is my money, thank you so much for treating the chickens that way. Keep on doing what you are doing.” For this reason, Roger and I have made a conscious effort to support the locally grown and smaller farm-raised animals.
We met Robert Bishop of Plow Point Farms this past winter when we interviewed Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta. Robert was meeting with Chef Hopkins who buys several types of chickens and pheasant from this farm to serve at his restaurant. Several other chefs in Atlanta buy from Plow Point Farms as well, including Anne Quatrano from Bacchanalia.
After a rather long and cold winter, we made the visit to their farm near Athens, Georgia, this spring. Robert and his business partner, Russell Bennett, operate a 125-acre family farm that Russell’s family owns. They raise chickens, pheasants, cows and horses. They are also breeding and preserving several breeds of heritage rabbits. They practice pasture rotation to support the land and the animals.
We had an opportunity to walk the pastures, although Nate the goat was not pleased with our presence and tried to butt us all around the farm. We learned that you don’t turn your back on Nate.
Robert and Russell are friends from college. They both graduated from the University of Georgia about four years ago. They went into farming raising vegetables initially, selling them at local Farmers’ Markets. At the markets, Robert and Russell liked being able to barter for food. They could obtain fresh and local meats and poultry for their families. They eventually met someone at one of those markets that taught them how to raise chickens. It would be additional income and they could do this with the land they had.
Robert and Russell raise Freedom Ranger chickens for their meat birds. This heritage breed is derived from the genetic stock of an American and European old heritage breed of chicken and was imported from the regions of Burgundy and Brittany in France. It was developed in the early 1960’s and “meets the highest standards of the French Label Rouge Free Range program.” The meat has a very distinctive flavor. It is richer and moister than the regular chicken you would normally purchase (such as a Cornish Cross). Their birds taste just like the chicken we had while in France a few years ago.
I loved this post. So much so, that if I were to find my way to GA in September (how far is that to the culinary trip?), do you think these guys would take a morning out to teach me how to process a chicken? I also would be curious to know if I could get Freedom Ranger chicks mailed to me in Southern CA. Can you tell where I’m going??? 🙂
You should definitely come! That would be awesome! Atlanta is about 7 hours from Louisville, but we would be happy to host you in Atlanta to visit Robert and Russell. We are visiting a farm that raises chickens on the culinary adventure, so you might get some information there too. We will figure it out if you head our way!
I can give you the info to see if this particular breeder will ship the chicks to CA. Maybe they can direct you to someone else if not.
Looking forward to seeing you soon! 🙂
Great article, Gwen. Lots of excellent background. It really is our moral responsibility to learn about where our foods come from and how it’s treated, whether that be with or without pesticides or overcrowding/stressing and abusing the animals. I’m hopeful more and more Americans will understand the importance of supporting our local farmers so we can actually even have a choice!
Thank you so much for your comment. I do think it is important that we all understand how and where our food sources come from, especially the proteins we eat. I know that we have many mouths to feed in this country, but believe we can do it differently. Abuse is uncalled for and should not be tolerated by anyone.
Chef Sean Brock is exactly right. When we buy chicken from birds raised in a cramped cage we’re saying that’s okay to treat them that way.
Only free range chicken and eggs from chickens that eat bugs for me!
My freezer always stays stocked with at least two or three pasture raised chickens from a local farm – just outside of Athens. Sarah and Russell Bennett have been good friends since college and now Russell along with his partner Robert Bishop sell fresh chickens to folks in the Athens and Atlanta area including many top restaurants.