Last Updated on September 2, 2021 by Jeremy
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As supporters of all things local, it should not be a surprise that we buy our meats and vegetables from area farms as best we can. This includes CSA subscriptions in the summer months, weekly visits to farmer's markets throughout the city, and buying bulk meat orders to fill our deep freezer from time to time as well.
While we are not writing this post to get into the ethical debate on meat-eating outright, we do believe that it is important to know where your meat comes from and that the animals are treated as humanely as possible along the way. By shopping at local farms, we are often able to see all of this first hand!
Naturally, when we started shopping for local meats, Birch Creek Farmery in Burgettstown, PA, quickly came on our radar. It didn't take long after looking at their website to realize that the family who runs the farm have values similar to ours in this regard, and we've become devoted customers ever since (including even visiting the farm for a wine dinner in the past as well).
Cut to a few years later, and the team (now friends) at Birch Creek Farmery invited us out for a proper farm tour to see how they raise their animals. As these tours are open to the public as well, we thought it'd be fun to share a bit more about what the experience is like!
Note: Birch Creek Farmery said that tours can be customized a bit for your interests. Want to spend more time petting and feeding animals? They can do that. Want to learn more of the technical details that go into farming? They can do that too. We opted for a general tour which involved a long walk around the property to see as many animals as possible. Be sure to dress accordingly in long pants and shoes you don't mind getting muddy!
A Long Walk Around Birch Creek Farmery
Prior to visiting Birch Creek Farmery for a tour, we knew mostly high-level details about the farm that we learned talking directly to the family and at the previously mentioned farm dinner. That is to say, the farm is almost 100 years old (celebrating the milestone in 2022), is family-run, has a wide assortment of animals (including rabbits, goats, pigs, cows, Icelandic lambs, chickens, ducks, and more), and has a strong commitment to sustainable farming and raising the animals in an ethical manner.
But it isn't until you see this first hand with a one-mile (or so) walk around the farm that you really start to appreciate the level of work that is required to manage it all!
Our tour started in one of the property's barns where we were able to meet some Icelandic lambs and newborn pigs. Here we were able to learn about the work that goes into nursing newborns (sometimes by hand if they are rejected by the mother) and how the farm approaches nursing sick animals back to health.
After that, it was out into the fields where we were able to hit many isolated sections of the farms that each contained their own respective animals.
One pen contained lambs and goats where we learned about how the animals are raised, their target weights, shearing schedules, and about how the market is changing to appreciate more unusual meats and cuts (would you be surprised to learn goat is growing in popularity?). As we walked through the pen, virtually every goat joined us on the walk while our guide, Teddi, addressed them all by name.
The next pen contained numerous pigs in a thick, tree-lined section of the farm. As the weather was pushing 85 degrees when we visited, we learned a bit about how they stay cool in addition to learning about their feeding/growth schedules and watching them rest in the shade.
From there, we visited subsequent fenced-off areas that included cows, ducks, more pigs, and other animals where we continued to get an appreciation for the work that must be done. Seemingly simple activities, such as moving animals from pen to pen over the season to change grazing patterns, come with a dizzying array of challenges such as moving feeders, covers, herding the animals, and more. Doing this once sounds like a chore, but cycling eight or so different animals sounds like a challenge we cannot even fathom!
Then there are all the other ancillary tasks we learned about, such as baling hay for winter, working with butchers and managing deliveries, managing expansion plans, working with local restaurants and markets, picking up spent grain from area breweries like Allegheny City Brewing, curating farm dinners, posting on social media, and more!
As Birch Creek Farmery is a small, family operation, we naturally had one question- do you ever sleep?
The answer was, to no one's surprise, not really. After asking that question half as a joke we learned that they are often get up many times over the night checking on the animals, tending to young or sick ones in the barn, and generally ensuring that the farm is operating as intended. Animals don't take a day off, and the amazing farmers here are working near constantly in order to keep things running smoothly!
In a way, it is even challenging for us to try and summarize all the farm does to ensure the animals are well cared for and grow up to be both happy and healthy. But in taking a walking tour around the property, we really got to see it all first hand which reaffirmed our choice to support the farm over the years- they really are doing some pretty exceptional work.
Whether you are a customer looking to see sustainable farming in practice or simply want to tour a working animal farm, we highly recommend checking out Birch Creek Farmery near Burgettstown. After seeing the hard work that goes in first hand, we left with a greater appreciation for all that is done to make the farm a success!
Birch Creek Farmery is located at 400 State Line Road in Burgettstown, PA, just near the West Virginia border. We were invited out for this review but are paying customers for many of the farm's amazing products.