This May has been colder than last. This fact might be lost on city dwellers and suburbanites, but it is not lost on Steve Hall of Nallie Pastures. Like all farmers, Steve depends upon the land, and his livelihood–his very survival– is in the hands of Mother Nature. Steve knows precisely how the weather will affect his pasture raised chickens and his farm’s productivity. Every day for 10 years, he writes detailed accounts of the weather to track his farm’s productivity. He knows that changes in the amount of rainfall and variations in normal seasonal temperatures directly impact the amount of food his chickens consume, and therefore how big and fast they will grow, or die.
Before starting his own farm in Dracut, MA, Steve had worked with other poultry farmers. They paid attention to weather and trends, but Steve’s attention was different: his details and this attention and accuracy led him to exponential growth for his farm over the last year.
Last fall, Steve’s notes showed a striking ispike in local food demand. So much so that he took a leap of faith and increased his production of meat birds by fifty percent last March. His detailed notes allowed him to predict how many birds he would need to meet demand and get him through the winter. When we spoke with him in early May business was great–he was sold out of his most popular cuts, the remainder of his supply was nearly gone, and he was on track to offer more just 2 weeks later.
Over the 2021 growing season, from spring to fall, Steve plans to add one more batch of meat birds to his total production, bringing the total up to fifteen staggered batches of six hundred birds. These birds are kept indoors for the first few weeks while they grow strong enough to be outside on pasture where they get fresh air, sunshine, and a new patch of green grass and bugs to eat every day. After they have grown for approximately eight weeks Steve takes one whole batch – all six hundred birds, to Rhode Island where they are processed in a USDA facility.
While Nallie Pastures is officially operating on just over an acre of land in Dracut MA, Steve has a strong community of supporters, some of whom have gone so far as to let him house his flocks of chickens on their unused pastures. Venturing no more than two miles in either direction from his home base, he can easily take care of his birds all the while having those birds rejuvenate the land being natural irrigators and fertilizers.
In addition to increasing his meat bird production, Steve increased the total number of laying chickens this summer to just around two hundred. Like his meat birds, they eat non-GMO grain and forage daily on fresh pasture.
Steve is a passionate collaborator. Nallie Pastures’ chicken bones form the base of Drew’s Stews’ bone broth, (who also vends at the Mill No. 5 market). Steve also participates in online farmers markets and market box delivery services. But the reliable, weekly customers who buy from him at the Sunday Farm Market at Mill No. 5 are the backbone of his business, and there is nothing like that face to face relationship to remind him of the important service his local farm provides for the community, and to make it all worthwhile.
The Farm Market runs every Sunday behind Mill No. 5 on Middlesex Street from 10-1pm. You can purchase chicken and eggs every week directly from Steve.