TJs Pastured Free Range Poultry
Tim & Julie Ifft
Piper City, IL
Tim & Julie Ifft run the family operated poultry farm in Piper City, IL. Farming has been apart of both of their families and they take pride in their healthy birds which are raised on pasture. I spoke with Tim Ifft about the ins and outs of running his poultry farming.
On TJ’s farm they raise chickens, turkeys as well as laying hens. 2 acres of the farm are dedicated to pasture which is rotated between the chickens and turkeys. A larger part of the farm is devoted to growing vegetables which includes some corn which is apart of the birds’ feed. The land has been farmed by Tim and his family for over 21 years. Tim grew up working with his father on a livestock farm and Julie grew up on her family’s dairy farm. Tim & Julie have raised 4 kids together who regularly help out on the farm. He also farms with his brother and father so it truly is a family affair.
TJ’s raises all natural free-range poultry. This means his birds aren’t given growth hormones, antibiotics or any animal byproducts. The broiler chickens spend 24 hours a day out in the field for 2 – 3 weeks while the turkeys go inside every night and are locked out into the pasture every day. The laying hens have open access to pasture and are in and out at their leisure. They really get the run of the fields which results in a much happier, healthier birds. The birds are fed a natural diet of corn and soybean meal in addition to any little bugs or grubs they snatch up while outside.
The biggest challenge of being a small, family owned operation is finding a way to make money. It’s truly a tough business which is why you don’t find a lot of people doing it. Almost all of the poultry in the market today has come from giant factory farms which own their own slaughter houses and can offer their product at a much lower price. It costs TJ’s much more to get to a final product including processing, feed, man hours and shipping. During these tough times it’s hard enough to make ends meet and one way to save a little money is to buy cheaper products at the grocery store. “It’s tough for a small producer to be able to survive.” Education definitely helps the process. Once people realize the difference between his product and conventional product it can convince them to buy locally. After the movie FOOD INC showed at a local food grocery store in Carbondale Tim’s sales sky rocketed that next week. People were able to see that the industrialized poultry farms were not working and were hungry for something different. Unfortunately with many people cutting corners his sales fell after that week but the more we can educate the consumer the better off we’ll all be.
Typical Farm Day
The day starts at 5:30 in the morning and continues until all of the work gets done. Eggs are by far the most labor intensive as TJ’s washes, grades and candles every single egg they sell. “We want to make sure 1 or 2 eggs aren’t cracked. Our customers are paying us a good dollar for our product.”
Best of Farming
It’s hard to narrow down what Tim loves best about farming. “If I didn’t like farming I wouldn’t do it.” One of the best things is to be able to wake up in the morning and see the animals having a good day.
Last Updated October 2009
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