The chickens from Steingrubenhof high above St. Peter is in the meadow during the day and sleeps in a Black Forest style barn at night. Isabel Plattman and Tim Taylor produce organic pasture chicken and organic veal here.
For many years, there was no doubt that Isabel Plattman would one day go on to run her parents’ farm. But after years of traveling and navigating between New Zealand, where she and Tim Taylor met 13 years ago, and Germany, the two decided to carry out their idea of raising healthy and sustainable animals through direct marketing on their parents’ former farm. “We were at that point in life where we wanted to make our own thing, where we wanted to be creative and do something meaningful that would make the world a better place,” Taylor says. So they revived the dairy farm that Plattman’s parents had closed.
Both change career paths
The barn in the great courtyard behind St. Peter’s camp has been empty for seven years. Only in the former milking parlor there is a hustle and bustle, and this is where the chicks spend the first weeks of their life. They come to the Black Forest as one day old chicks, and when they are four weeks old, they are big enough to graze. It is located a few dozen meters away, in the mountain hut Steingrubenhof, where the two professionals live.
Both are not trained farmers. I grew up in agriculture and gained knowledge and experience. “A few years ago, we came across regenerative agriculture, a form of agriculture that is more than just ecological agriculture,” Plattman says. “It places great importance on improving soil quality of life and increasing biodiversity.” Her friend explains the principle as follows: by grazing, animals leave their dung in the meadow, the grass is not mowed, and a kind of layer of mulch is created that nourishes the soil with its microorganisms.
Poultry graze in the meadows near Berghusle – with a view of Feldberg in the south and up to Vosges in the west. They eat fresh grass, worms, and bugs every day because Taylor lets them go to a new piece of pasture each morning and moves the pens along each time. The stables stand on a movable frame that can move on its own.
Animals sleep in the black forest house stable
The 500 chickens live in groups of 100 animals each, and sleep in the stall of a Black Forest house that Taylor and Plattman built themselves. It provides protection from wind and weather, as you’ll find water, and Taylor hand-feeds extra organic grains from the area. Guard dogs protect animals from hen bird. “We have deliberately chosen a slow-growing breed,” Taylor says. “We are familiar with the animals through daily contact with chickens and roosters. This enables a largely fear- and stress-free slaughter process.”
After about twelve weeks, the animals are ready for slaughter, then in the early morning Plattman and Taylor take them while they are still asleep to the small slaughterhouse in Stegen-Rechtenbach, where Tim Taylor helps with the slaughter. During the summer months from July to October, willow chickens are sold whole, on order also as portions, on Saturday mornings from the farm and online, on Thursday mornings at Freiburg Munster Markt and on Friday afternoons at the farmers market in St. Petermer. And in many shops in Dreisamtal.
Raising young organic cows
In addition to chickens, Vorderwald farmers also fatten the calves that are bred on nearby dairy farms. In order for a milk cow to give birth, it must give birth to a calf every year. Only about 20 percent of these veal are required for offspring, and the rest is mostly sold abroad because there is not enough demand for veal in Germany. The two calves avoid this fate and raise them into small organic livestock. Animals graze all over the meadows, and a change takes place every three days so that the meadows can regenerate again. The meat is then offered for sale in the fall.
Timo Guckert, a young farmer from Heitersheim, also produces moving eggs and chickens. Although it does not depend on reproduction, ecological breeding and regeneration, it is very important for him that animals lead a species-appropriate life. He sells his chickens to order. Only when everyone is asked beforehand, does he bring the chickens to a slaughterhouse in the area.