Winner, winner, chicken (share) dinner
Karl Prahl of Underline Farm is a Local Hero (as recognized by the Western Mass. agricultural organization CISA) and one of ours as well.
Karl's Ashfield farm is a bucolic rolling 30-acre plot of pasture and thicket that at some point runs under the high tension lines (hence the farm's name, Underline) that run across his property. It's also home to his dog Leche, and multiple flocks of roosters, turkeys and ducks that roam the yard near his farmhouse.
What brought us to Karl is that he is one of the few in the Valley to offer, specifically, a chicken share. We've tried all types of shares, from veggie to variety meat shares, and they've all been great. But I've been specifically looking for a way to purchase multiple chickens, cut them up myself and freeze them.
Buying local, over store-bought, chicken is expensive. But it's also worth it in all the ways we here at Right Up Our Valley like: We know the farmer who raises the birds, we know what the birds are fed, the meat is fresh, and it wasn't shipped from some industrial-scaled farms somewhere in the South, which are not only bad for the animals but for the environment as well.
Karl's chicken share is great. We signed up for what he calls a half share: For $200, you get the equivalent of roughly nine 4 lb. birds (you can get parts equal to the price). In all, I probably got 4 frozen whole birds and the rest I picked up fresh, brought them home and cut them into parts and vacuum-sealed them individually and froze them. The cutting is work, but worth it because, of course, buying parts is more costly.
For me, the real fun was driving up the scenic back roads to the farm, talking to Karl, and getting a tour of his operation -- the chickens are caged to protect them from predators but have plenty of room to roam. It's a treat to walk among the menagerie of ducks and turkeys that roam his yard and offer a few good head scratches to Leche, who is always around keeping an eye on things.
If you're interested in a chicken share, check out Karl's website www.underlinefarm.com or you can email him at email@example.com. He is also at a couple of farmers' markets, including Tuesdays in Northampton and Sundays in Easthampton.
One other note: As some may know, chicken processing in Massachusetts has been tricky. It's highly regulated and makes it difficult and costly for local farmers. Karl's birds, like many others around here, are processed off-site, at Reed Farm in Sunderland, which opened in 2019 and seems to have opened up the chicken market in Western Mass. So for this, we are adding Reed Farm as another of our local heroes.