During the summer and fall is when the North Fork is its busiest. But when the weather gets cold, that doesn’t mean it’s time to pack it up for businesses. This month, we’re getting a behind the scenes look at what farmers are doing during the off season to keep their businesses running.
It’s not a piece of land that is well labeled from the street. In fact, when I typed the address into my GPS, I recognized that I had driven by it a hundred times but never registered that it was there. It’s Feisty Acres, the popular poultry and egg farm in Souldhold located on the corner of County Route 48 and Youngs Ave.
“We actually have two pieces of land,” said Abra Morawiec, who founded the farm with Chris Pinto in 2015. “A four acre piece here, and then we have another seven acre piece a quarter mile down the road. We usually open up that pasture at the end of March or so.”
In the main barn off to the right I can hear what sits beneath the red heat lamps in the little stalls before I see them — chicks. Fluffy and mostly yellow with just a peak of their brown feathers coming in, the peeps of these young one and a half week old red broilers fill the space of the barn. Just next to them are older birds of the same breed who look completely different but are only a few weeks older. Yellow fluff has been replaced with deep amber feathers and a red crown atop their heads.
“These guys are just a little over a month old. You can see we’ve taken them from a brooder with greenhouse plastic on top of it to an open top with only one heat lamp,” Morawiec said. “We’re incrementally acclimating them to the fluctuating temperatures.” Next week, they will find their way out to the pasture.
The land outside the barn is divided for a few different types of birds with fencing. To the right of the barn is a little village of quail houses. Each of the six houses hold 40 to 50 birds who all lay eggs and will eventually be processed for meat. On the other side of the pasture are a few fenced in areas for chickens. Each area has a gutted trailer that Morawiec and Pinto have converted into a roosting house. But perhaps my favorite were the ducks.
About 70 ducks, all shades of black, tan and white retreated to the back corner of their area when I entered the fence, all turning their heads to face away from me as if to give me the silent treatment. But they were anything but silent, all quacking in complaints, completely insulted I had breached their zone.
“Don’t be offended by that,” Morawiec said. “If you’re not a duck, they don’t care about you.”
Most days for Morawiec and Pinto look quite similar this time of year. They give the birds fresh food and water daily, collect and clean all the eggs — about 300 quail eggs and 100 chicken eggs a day — and move different herds of birds to fresh pastures. Luckily, they have one employee, Phyllis, the rescued farm dog, who gets her kicks chasing down a stray chicken or two.
“The animals don’t care what season it is,” Morawiec said. “They don’t care if it’s snowing. They don’t care if you’re hungover cause you were partying the night before. Livestock farmers, we got to work all year round.”