A Brief History of Us

Approximately 5 years ago, the McAuley family purchased this retired dairy farm in Granville County, NC. John and Betsie had served as Joel Salatin’s second apprentice on Polyface Farm in Virginia way back in 1996. They had a pastured poultry business after that based in Youngsville, NC. A few years later, John’s career in technology took off and they decided to leave farming behind.

As their children got older, they wanted them to experience the joys, lessons, hard work, and entrepreneurship that a farming business brings. So in 2014, they purchased this farm and started Healthy Hen Farms which quickly became the Triangle’s premier source of pastured poultry raised on certified organic, soy-free feed. At the peak, the farm was producing over 5000 pastured chickens per year utilizing only about 6 of the available acres of pasture.

Now is a different season for them with their children starting to go off to college and grow into young adulthood. It is time to turn over the keys to the place they poured their heart and soul into for the past 5 years as they restored the farm to a fully functional, working farm like it used to be.

Farm Overview & Tour

We’ll start with a short overview of the farm. It has just under 47 acres of land with about half of that in healthy pastures and the other half in timber. The home is located on the highest point of the farm and has a circle drive around the entire farmyard, giving easy access to all of the many barns and buildings. The farm rolls down to creeks on each side and the back and has a high ridge full of hardwoods and pines on the back of the property. There are three ponds on the farm and two creeks that flow year round. The entire perimeter of the farm, even in the wooded areas, is fenced with a new 6 strand, electrified, high-tensile fence that includes a strand of barbed wire directly on the ground to prevent predators from digging to get in or your livestock/dogs digging to get out! You can raise just about any farm animal you can think of on this farm and it’s already set up and ready to go.

In addition to the setup for animals, the farm has many established trees and plants you will also enjoy. The farmyard and surrounding area has over a dozen mature, producing pecan trees. 25 Dunstan Chestnut trees were also planted in tree tubes and staked. These will begin producing as early as 3-4years from now and are capable of producing 1000-2000 pounds of chestnuts per acre. There are seedless blackberry bushes, a large blueberry bush that gives us over 5 gallons of blueberries each year, a lovely pear tree, fig trees, and persimmon trees scattered throughout the woods on the farm.

It is also a wildlife paradise. We have harvested several large whitetail bucks from the farm and routinely capture trophy deer on the wildlife cameras. There are plenty of turkeys and we even have a population of bobwhite quail on the farm. People comment on the quail all the time when they hear them because for many, they haven’t heard or seen quail in years.

Below we attempt to give you a virtual tour of the farm. Obviously you can’t experience the entirety of the farm without visiting, but we have tried our best to give you an idea of what you will be getting with this farm. You can click on any image and it will enlarge the image in a light box.

 
 

Log Cabinet

We call this building the Log Cabinet because we use it for storage. This is the original log cabin that our neighbor grew up in on the farm before they built the current farmhouse in the 1950s. It would be a really cool building to restore.

More Log Cabinet

From this view, you can see all the covered storage areas attached to the Log Cabinet. You can also see another small storage shed to the right. That old fence line you see in the background has been cut down and replaced with new high-tensile electrified fencing. This also shows one of the many mature pecan trees around the farm yard.

Independence Hall

We host a large 4th of July event every year on the farm with BBQ and fireworks. This is our party barn that we use. It has a lean to shelter on the side where John keeps all of his grills and smokers. The inside is decorated in sort of a cracker barrel theme with all kinds of memorabilia.

Independence Hall - July 4th

Outside shot of independence hall during our July 4th gathering.

 

Hay Barn

This is the old hay barn with a hay loft and a few animal stalls. We converted one side to a layer house where we kept our layers that gave us our daily eggs.

Processing Shed

In this picture, you can see the view down the back driveway from the side porch on the house. The first building on the left is what we called the processing shed. It is what we set up as an NCDA approved poultry processing facility so we could process up to 20,000 chickens on the farm each year. The small building right behind that is our old brooder barn where we brooded our chicks before we outgrew that building. It was the original corn crib on the farm. Then all the way in the back is the hay barn.

Brooder Barn - Old Corn Crib

Another view of the old corn crib. This building is rodent proof as we laid hardware cloth on the walls of the entire inside. We used this as our original brooder until we outgrew it and needed to build a new brooder barn. Lots of different uses for this building too including a drumming room for a very loud boy (current use)!

Tobacco Barn #2

Another tobacco barn with two lean-to’s. This barn is outside of the farmyard fence and the previous owners used it as a horse run in shelter.

Workshop - New Steel Barn

We built this barn a few years ago. It is constructed with 12 gauge steel framing and steel siding/roofing. It is rated for Cat-4 hurricane and should last a very long time with little to no maintenance. The entire barn measures 38 feet wide by 36 feet long and has three sections. The two fully enclosed side sections are 12x36, have paved concrete floors, and go from 7’ ceilings on the outer edge to 10’ ceilings on the inside. The middle section is 14’ wide and can be driven through from front to back. There is also a loft that was built for storage in the middle section. The barn has a 100 amp electrical service coming into it. One side section has been insulated with energy efficient spray foam insulation and then finished off as a workshop. The other section is not insulated and is currently being used to air dry lumber that was cut from trees on the farm (red oak, pine, poplar, and cedar).

Workshop - Inside

The workshop is still a work in progress that started in 2018. The walls that have been finished above the work benches are PureBond finish grade maple plywood. The work bench tops are 3/4” finish grade maple plywood and then you can see the dark mahogony colored trim and shelves. The cabinet boxes are meant to hold drawers that will form a miter saw station. LED lighting and full power throughout this space. The ceiling was finished with pine boards that we cut from pines that fell in a storm several years ago. Again, all of the wall coverings have full spray-foam insulation behind them so you could add a heating/cooling unit and have the space fully conditioned.

….and more Workshop

Independence Hall - Inside

This space makes a great gathering space for hosting large groups of people on the farm.

 

Tobacco Working House

This is an old working house where they used to bring tobacco into the basement for a while to dry out, then take upstairs to stake it before taking it to the hanging barns on the farm. The building is not in great shape but the log cabin type shell is and it would be a neat building to restore. This sits in the woods behind Independence Hall.

Hay Barn - Front View

 

Processing Shed - Inside When We Were Processing Chickens

Since we are not producing chickens anymore, we use this space as a workout room and storage space, but this was what it looked like when we were processing chickens. This concrete block building has three sections, you are looking at the middle section. It really is a multi-purpose building that could be used for a lot of different things. It has a separate electric service that supplies power to all of the other farm buildings as well.

Tractor Shed

This is one of the old tobacco barns on the farm, with lean-tos around it. We use this to park the tractor and lawnmower, as well as store other implements. The inside is not used currently, but could be used for a lot of different things. The roof vents are still in working order and some people have converted these to smoke houses which would be neat.

Mom’s Porch

This is on the back of the processing shed with views of the front pond. John and the kids painted it and created this space as a Mother’s Day gift for Betsie last year.

Loft - Center Section of Workshop

 

More Workshop

 

Lots of tool storage all along the walls in the center section.


Below we’ve included just a bunch of shots from around the farm at different times of the year.

Walking on the path through the pine forest in the center of the farm.

 

Walking down the path into one of the back pastures.

Taken from the front of the driveway towards our neighbors, looking across one of the front pastures. Picture taken before old fence was torn down and new fence was installed. Nash, the farm poodle, became very attached to the guineas for some reason and would follow them around to make sure they were safe.

Creek running along the back of the farm.

 

Commercial Liftmaster solar gate system for controlling entry and exit to the farm. Solid steel gate with two solar panels and two batteries. Enter using remotes or the driver side keypad and you can program various codes for guests, contractors, etc… Exit wand in the driveway to allow exit of vehicles upon approach to the gate. Also has party mode where gate can be left open if you are expecting lots of guests.

Taking a break from making hay. This is a view from the side pastures towards the back of the workshop.

Samson enjoying the snow by the front pond.

Great place for airsoft wars!

One of the back pastures.

 

Some of the cows contained using portable fencing that attaches to the perimeter fencing so you can practice rotational grazing. The farm is set up perfectly for this and will work for many different types of livestock.

Doesn’t get better than this!

Aerial View.PNG

Aerial View

This is the overhead view of the farm. You can see the entry from the road. The gate is far enough off the road so that multiple cars or tractor-trailers can pull into the driveway and stop at the gate without being out in the road. You can see the three larger ponds indicated here. There is a smaller swale in the woods that stays year round but I wouldn’t really call it a pond.

The driveway enters from the road and wraps all the way around the house and farm yard as you can see. Most of the usable buildings on the farm are accessible directly from the drive. The perimeter fence wraps all the way around the farm boundary (about 2 miles total) and crosses all the creeks with creek crossings. It will keep your livestock and dogs in and predators out. We let our livestock dogs roam the entire farm because they can only go to the boundaries. There is also a 3 wire fence that separates the farm from the driveway and farmyard/house. This allows you to keep your animals out in the pastures without having to worry about them getting through the gate when someone opens it…or on the porch if they happen to be a porch dog!

You can see the pines in the middle of the farm. This area used to be pasture according to our neighbor who grew up on the farm. It now is covered with 50-60 year old pines according to the forest service. The sides and back ridges are covered with hardwoods and a few very old pines that the forest service aged to over 110 years old. Lots of red oak, white oak, hickory, poplar, beech, maple, etc. The entire farm has paths to make all of these places easily accessible.

This is one of the front pastures in winter. The white tubes out in the field are the 25 Dunstan Chestnut trees that were planted this year using weed mats and tree tubes. They should start producing in 3-5 years and will yield up to 2000 pounds per acre.

This is a view down the driveway towards the road and gate. The house is over 100 yards off the road, providing plenty of privacy. The old run in shelter to the left is basically used as a doghouse for our Great Pyrenees guardian dogs. You can’t see them in this picture, but we also planted 35 Natchez Crape Myrtles all the way down the driveway starting at the gate. They will provide a beautiful entrance in a few years.

This is another one of the front pastures.

One of the back pastures with a view of one of the back ponds to the right. The dark pile of debris on the left is where we had a big bonfire recently. This is where we typically burn large debris that can’t be chipped into mulch. From here, you can see all the way down to the back creek and then up to the back ridge in the woods. The back property line is all the way on top of that ridge.

This is one of our favorite spots on the farm. It is just behind the farmyard as you go towards the back of the property. The pasture has several large Southern White Oaks in it that make great sitting spots in the summer. The ridge goes down to the creek that runs along the side of the farm.