John and Betsie McAuley run the day to day operations for Healthy Hen Farms. They were the second apprentices under Joel Salatin at Polyface Farm in Virginia way back in 1996. Those familiar with the local food movement, pastured poultry, and grass fed beef will recognize Joel’s name as he is the man who has perfected this system as well as written many wonderful books on family farming and sustainable agriculture.
In 1995, while students at North Carolina State University and Meredith College in Raleigh, John and Betsie had the opportunity to move to Virgina and apprentice on the farm. After falling in love with the idea, they both decided to leave school behind and head to the farm. John spent about three months at Polyface before he and Betsie were married and then they spent the next four months on the farm together. They are extremely appreciative of Joel and the entire Salatin family for this opportunity that changed their lives forever.
Once they left Polyface, John and Betsie moved back to the Raleigh area and started their own farming business in Youngsville, NC. They raised pastured broilers, turkeys, and eggs for many families in the Raleigh and Wake Forest areas. They were featured on WRAL news and had several stories written about the farm in local newspapers. After a couple of good seasons they faced many challenges of new businesses, in addition to the lack of a permanent farm to call home. So at the end of the 1998 season, they left their farm business behind and put their farming dreams on hold.
Over the next several years, John’s job in technology led them all over the US. They lived in Silicon Valley, Atlanta, Raleigh, and Asheville as John’s career progressed. During those years, they became known by many of their friends as the Chicken People and loved telling stories from their farming days. They both had a desire to get back to farming one day and continued to hold on to that dream. During this time, they had also added a few chicks to their flock as you can see below.
In 2013, they decided to take a giant leap and purchase their very own farm. That was the birth of Healthy Hen Farms.
It takes a lot of work from a lot of folks to make our farm work. Our six kids each have different parts of the farm they help take care of and everyone helps with the chickens. They're hard working kids and they're learning animal husbandry, carpentry, marketing, soil management, plant health, and a whole lot of other stuff. Throughout our lives, we've recognized that a strong work ethic is one of the most important things a person can have that leads to their success. Hopefully they're picking that up!
OUR pastured Poultry PROCESSING CREW
Our farm is a North Carolina Department of Agriculture approved Poultry Exempt Operator, meaning we can process up to 20,000 chickens per year right here on the farm. That means your chicken goes from 1 day old chicks all the way through processing and packaging without ever leaving our farm. You can't get much more local than that! Of course, processing on farm takes a lot of help and we have a great part time crew that helps with that. These guys may look like normal happy people but folks, these guys have SKILLS when it comes to processing! We have a lot of fun together and appreciate this team more than we could ever express.