Hillside Farm & Pearce's Pastured Poultry

POLICY IN ACTION: H-603 EXPANDS ON-FARM POULTRY PROCESSING
Hillside Farm is a diversified livestock farm in Albany, Vermont. They raise pastured pigs and poultry, processing chickens on the farm every week of the summer and selling fresh from the farm and at the Capital City Farmers Market. Find them year-round at the market in Montpelier!

Hillside Farm Pasture
Mobile chicken tractors and Molly Pytleski working in the chicken pasture field | Kelly Bogel Stokes


Owners Hannah Pearce and her father Bill are working toward growing the business to a sustainable and efficient scale where it is sufficiently profitable for Hannah to earn an income from. A big piece of this is making the weekly farm operations run smoothly and efficiently, in order for the farm to generate enough product in a 20-week pasture season to cash-flow over a 12-month sales window. Hannah and Bill have worked with Daniel Keeney & Silene DeCiucies from CAE to develop long-term business strategies to further these goals.

Hillside Farm is also a proud Vermont Farm Fund borrower, having used VFF funds to support a solar array on the farm, scaling up their chicken tractors, and most recently to replace their market delivery vehicle.

Eka, Hillside Farm
Farm dog, Eka, leads the way around the farm | Kelly Bogel Stokes

During a June visit, co-owner Hannah Pearce and loyal farm dog, Eka, toured the CAE Communications staff around the farm and let us join them for the third week of on-farm chicken slaughter this season. Because Hillside Farm does all of their processing on the farm, they are only able to sell directly to the end user, which means retail sales are either on the farm or at the Capital City Farmers Market in Montpelier. They have also been able to sell to some restaurants, but there is a rigorous registration process with the state and the restaurant is required to have very specific labeling on their menu. 

Up until this spring, Vermont law only allowed for the sale of whole birds from an on-farm slaughter, which is difficult for consumers and restaurants alike, who want to be able to buy different cuts. Parker Pie, in West Glover, is by far Pearce’s biggest wholesale customer, because they have been able to build their kitchen systems to handle purchasing and using whole birds.

Hannah during slaughter
Hannah Pearce performs the on-farm chicken slaughter | Kelly Bogel Stokes
Chickens moving to the evisceration room.
Chickens moving to the evisceration room | Kelly Bogel Stokes

With the recent passing of Vermont Law H-603, Hannah is now able to slaughter poultry and produce cuts on the farm. In previous years, Hannah had to take the birds to a USDA facility for slaughter in order to offer cuts for sale; not only was the travel stressful for both the birds and the farmer, but the cost of travel and slaughter was significant. It also pulled Hannah away from the farm, which was not ideal. The new update to the processing law removes this step from her process, which is a huge advantage to her business because it reduces stress on the birds, gives Hannah more time on the farm, and allows her to double her gross profit.

Evisceration room
Evisceration Crew processing chickens. Team members include: Gabe Rogers, Owen Tatum, Zenaide McCarthy, Angela Walton, Anna Weber-Loomis | Kelly Bogel Stokes

The youngest of six siblings, Hannah was exposed to a variety of agricultural endeavors as a kid, like a mail-order enterprise with canned veggies and apple sauces: “We did that for a number of years when I was growing up, which made me not want to be a farmer at all.” Hannah ended up moving away, for school briefly in Massachusetts, and to Montana for eight years, where her dad, Bill, moved with her for a few years. After being away, Hannah visited Vermont ten years ago. She ended up joining her dad, Bill, as co-owner of Hillside Farm & Pearce’s Pastured Poultry, finally finding an enterprise that she enjoyed: “I was here for a couple of weeks, and I’m like, I guess I’m not leaving.”

Hannah Pearce with Chicken
Hannah Pearce with chicken in the pasture | Kelly Bogel Stokes

 

Learn more about Hillside Farm & Pearce’s Pastured Poultry (and buy their amazing meat!) on their website:
https://www.hillsidefarmvt.com/

Find them on social media:
FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM