Updated: Sep 7
HIGHLANDS – They call it New Life Farms because one of their purposes is to give new life to old farms. But in actuality, Jen and Art Garrison are giving new life to a number of different ventures, including their newest launched this week, a chicken stand at the Saturday Farmer’s Market at Huddy Park.
The Garrisons raise chickens for slaughter and freezing, and sell them for families who want organic fed poultry. They also raise pigs for the same purpose, and hoping their next venture in their food chain will be lamb.
The Garrisons live in an old farmhouse on Whippoorwill Valley Rd and use about three acres of the expanse for their unique and fascinating way of raising chickens….in chicken tractors.
The fascinating arrangement are screened houses, about 6 X10 feet in size, each capable of holding about 30 chickens. On a daily basis, they simply pick up the chicken tractors complete with chickens, and move them to another spot for fresh grass and insects, allowing the manure remaining from the former site to be fertilizer for the grass there. With careful planning, they can use the three acres to move the chicken tractors around, eventually getting back to the original spot, now enriched with fertilizer and ready to be used again.
The Garrisons raise Cornish Cross chickens, a breed that reaches full growth in only a surprisingly short eight weeks. Once their day old chicks arrive by mail from a local supplier, they raise them in their brooder section in the barn on the property for a short time, then move them into the chicken tractors in the field. The housing was designed by John Suscovich and are all built by Garrison himself, another of his chores in addition to being a landscaping contractor. For the next few weeks, the Garrisons move the chicken tractors to guarantee the fresh supply of insects and grass for their brood, until it’s time to bring them to the slaughterhouse where they are processed, packaged and frozen for sale at farm markets and wherever families want freshly grown and frozen Cornish Cross chicken for consumption.
The fully grown chickens all weigh between four and seven pounds and the finished product at the Farmers Market in Huddy Park sells for prices ranging from $28 to $36. Purchasers buy them whole, so they have the choice of either roasting their dinner or cutting the chicken into parts for several meals. The couple stagger their day old chicken purchases, so they’re always certain to have fresh chicken for sale at various times, and to guarantee the fresh grazing land for all.
It was Covid that launched this new idea for the Garrisons, whose three young children, Samantha, Jessica and Paul not only man the farm stand with them, but also help out on the farm when needed and certainly get an education in farming, organic feeding, and working together to help others. The Garrisons began their chicken raising to ensure their own foodsupply during Covid, and it wasn’t long before they learned others were interested in being able to purchase locally grown chicken and a new business was started.
They chose chicken farming to help their own food supply and to preserve open lands after being long time viewers of Joe Salatin, noted journalist, author and farmer who maintains his own farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
They also think it was more than a coincidence, but rather a kind God helping them out in their venture that the couple could rent their present farm, where they live in the farmhouse, use the barn for brooding the young chicks, and about three acres of the larger tract for the final stages of the raising process. As a landscaper, Art met the daughter of Valerine and Frank Montecalvo, she was fascinated by their process, they met up and discussed business details, and the Garrisons lease the farm from the Montecalvos.
Members of the Colt Neck Community Church and born again Christians, the Garrisons began their business in their own back yard in Eatontown before moving to the Middletown site, using their garage for the brooding. All of their work is licensed, meets USDA standards, and fully state inspected, as well as conforming to all Middletown Township regulations. Their feed is all a high quality organic feed they get locally, and most of their chicken raising knowledge came from Joel Salatin on YouTube. Salatin is a popular jou9rnalist, author and farmer, who raises livestock on his Polyface Farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and who sells his meat through direct marketing as well as to restaurants.
With this newly launched business already looking like a good investment and a wonderful way of life for the Garrison family, they are looking to raise sheep in the near future as well. “There are so many great local farms in the area, we didn’t want to raise fruits and vegetables, but wanted to do something to bring an old farm back to life,” Art explained. The Garrisons are also looking to partner with other farm owners who want to preserve their open space, but might not want to farm it themselves. Such partnerships can be highly successful, the Garrisons said, event at the Jersey Shore where it appears that the most lucrative crop grown on the land is new houses.
Will New Life Farms be at the Farmers Market till it closes in November? “We plan to be and are excited to be here,” Jen laughed, “but hopefully, we’ll even sell out before November, and then we’ll have to close.”.