If it were up to Angus Cormack he would be a full-time chicken farmer. That’s not to say he isn’t happy with his current position at Whistler Blackcomb, but the 30-something part-time farmer has found his passion in life, chickens.
This past spring Cormack and his wife Jocelyn Sereda launched Sweetwater Lane Poultry and became the first Pemberton company to be licensed as a rural poultry slaughter operation.
“Our goal is to produce chickens that are healthy and affordable for families,” Cormack said. “Although we are not certified organic, we feel like what we are doing is beyond organic. All of our chickens arrive at our place just one day old, before their beaks have been clipped and before they have been injected with any hormones. They are organic grain fed and roam in our pastures eating grass and bugs which is really natural and healthy for them.”
Cormack and Sereda don’t have any plans of becoming certified organic just yet. They claim it costs too much to get the certification which would force them to raise the price of their chickens beyond what a Pemberton family can generally afford.
“When you see that label free range, you picture chickens outside in an idealic setting, living the life. But in reality that’s not the case. Chickens are scared to go outside of the barn into the sun because they are cooped up for the first four weeks of their life and they are too scared to venture outside. They live in a barn with hundreds of other chickens with barely any room to stand up,” said Sereda.
Cormack and Sereda raise and slaughter the chickens on their own property, seven acres of land located Owl Ridge area of Pemberton. They purchase their chicks from a commercial factory in Alberta who truck over the newborns as soon as they have hatched.
For the first 10 days to two weeks, Cormack and Sereda keep the chicks in a small and heated brooder coop then move them into an open-air coop on the grass. After the chicks have eaten away at all the grass within the coop’s boundary, the coop is moved to a different location on their pasture. Not only does this mean fresh grass for the chickens, it also ensures different areas of Cormack’s pasture are fertilized.
“When we first bought this property four years ago, the soil was really well drained and rocky. It wasn’t healthy soil for growing vegetables so I started looking at natural ways to build up nutrients and the robustness of the soil. This led me to rotational grazing practices which eventually led me to chickens,” smiled Cormack.
The goal at Sweetwater Lane Poultry is to one day “close the loop” and not have to purchase chicks from out of province. The couple is experimenting with the raising of some chickens hatched from eggs supplied by a local Pemberton farmer, and in October they will try raising ducks supplied by Helmer’s Organic Farm.
Since launching Sweetwater Lane Poultry, Cormack and Sereda have sold out of chickens every month and don’t have any plans just yet to expand beyond 160 birds per month. They will be selling one more batch of chickens in October and then will halt production through the winter, starting again next spring. Chickens are sold for $4.50 per pound. For more information, or to get on the mailing list, visit Cormack’s and Sereda’s Facebook page at Sweetwater Lane Poultry.