Quail eggs? Sunflower sprouts? This is why I love farmers’ markets! After an hour drive winding through the pastoral countryside, I arrived at Swanberry Farm. I was greeted by Shawn and Jorden Duvall, flanked by C.C. Babcock and Fran Fine, two pygmy goats the Duvalls recently adopted. Saying that this farm is in the “middle of nowhere” would be a very accurate description. This 14-acre farm is nestled deep into the countryside of Pleasureville, KY. The reason that I am visiting today is that Swanberry Farm is not currently seeking organic certification, so I wanted to coordinate a visit with them to view and better understand their farming practices. I hoped that this would provide me with a better understanding of why they farm the way that they do.
Neither Jorden nor Shawn are formally trained farmers. Shawn, a chef by trade, wanted a better understanding of where food comes from and alongside Jorden, they learned to work the soil through YouTube videos and research. We were happy to offer our organic milling by-products to them to help make their farm more profitable, but they found that the hens needed supplemental protein in their diets. They also found that pigs need lots of protein too, so they started supplementing the pigs’ diet with goat milk, which is also a nutritious treat for them too!
I’ve never seen quail before, and was quite surprised to see how small they are. I guess I should have guess that by the petite size of their eggs. For their tiny size, quail eggs pack a punch with 3-4 times the nutritional value of a chicken egg. Not only are they nutritious, but they are tasty too. After a bit of deliberation, I decided that miniature deviled quail eggs garnished with sunflower sprout salad would be the best use of my recent purchase from the market. Along with quail, Swanberry raises over 150 laying hens, whose beautiful eggs range in color from brown to blue to white. During early summer, Shawn and Jorden are fortunate enough to get pullet eggs from the new layers. These eggs are prized for their richer flavor when compared to larger eggs. Swanberry Farm also has peking ducks and guinea hens, which they will release in the garden to control some of the pests there. The quail and chickens also receive some of the spent produce from the farm, thus continuing the cycle of growth and reducing farm waste.
They are hoping Mother Theresa and Queen Elizabeth, the two sows on the farm, are expecting. However, being new to raising pigs they aren’t quite sure at this point. Shawn and Jorden rotate the pig and chicken pastures every couple of days to keep the stock and soil healthy. The chickens also like to visit the pig pen, where they are liable to find stray bugs or tidbits of leftover slop.
The main garden at Swanberry Farm is ¼ acre and quite intensive. With crops ranging from spring lettuce, to eggplant, cucumber and peppers, Shawn and Jorden must pay attention to the health of the soil. There has been a recurring concern with keeping the land healthy in all the farmers I have visited so far this year. It makes sense, though. Healthy land equals healthy plants. Healthy plants equals healthy you. To keep the soil optimal for growing, Swanberry Farm uses supplements, such as kelp fertilizer and fish emulsion, which is a naturally balanced micronutrient for the soil. They also add nematodes (beneficial microscopic worms) to the soil to control pests. Shawn and Jorden do a lot of the work on their farm by hand. They hoe the garden by hand, water the tomatoes by hand and mulch the soil by hand. After listening to the amount of daily chores they have, I’ve decided that farming is quite hard work. On the 95 degree day that I visited, both Shawn and Jorden were hot and sweaty from working the land. It gives shopping at the farmers market a totally new appreciation.
We are so happy to have Shawn and Jorden at our Louismill Anchorage Farmers Market this season and we sincerely hope that our patrons take a chance and try some of Swanberry Farm’s delicious quail eggs. Possibly on a bed of beautiful spring lettuce and diced cucumbers. Be sure to stop by on Saturday between now and the end of October from 8-11am to check out the awesome offerings from Shawn and Jorden, along with the rest of our farmers market vendors.