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Fresh eggs from fresh young farmers in Allenstown

  • Landon Woodward, 19, and Jocelyn Therrien, 20, stand for a portrait on the three acres of land they lease for their chicken egg farm in Allenstown. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Woodward Family Farm is a chicken egg business recently begun by 2014 Pembroke Academy graduates and couple Landon Woodward and Jocelyn Therrien. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Woodward Family Farm is a chicken egg business recently begun by 2014 Pembroke Academy graduates and couple Landon Woodward and Jocelyn Therrien. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Woodward Family Farm is a chicken egg business recently begun by 2014 Pembroke Academy graduates and couple Landon Woodward and Jocelyn Therrien. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Woodward Family Farm is a chicken egg business started by 2014 Pembroke Academy graduates and couple Landon Woodward and Jocelyn Therrien. ELODIE REED / Monitor staff

  • Woodward Family Farm is a chicken egg business recently begun by 2014 Pembroke Academy graduates and couple Landon Woodward and Jocelyn Therrien. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Woodward Family Farm produces between 800 and 900 eggs each day.  ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • Woodward Family Farm is a chicken egg business recently begun by 2014 Pembroke Academy graduates and couple Landon Woodward and Jocelyn Therrien. ELODIE REED—Monitor staff

  • The farm has about 1,200 Golden Comet chickens and sells farm-fresh, free-range eggs.  ELODIE REED / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Monday, June 27, 2016

In a mowed field full of clucking, strutting and occasionally crowing chickens, recent high school graduates Landon Woodward and Jocelyn Therrien see a future in farming, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s better than sitting in an office,” said Woodward. “It’s being outdoors, it’s doing something you enjoy.”

Therrien added as she stroked the feathery head of a younger hen in her arms, “It’s fun.”

Woodward, 19, and Therrien, 20, are both members of the Pembroke Academy Class of 2014. They started dating years ago while both worked at LaValley Farms in Allenstown, where owners Chris and Danielle LaValley, both 30, had their own young start 10 years ago.

As Woodward explains it, Chris LaValley got sick of the chicken egg business, and offered it up to him and Therrien last fall. Woodward had been caring for the chickens for some time – he’s worked at LaValley since he was 12 – and grew to like it.

“I decided to buy them,” said Woodward. In November, he and Therrien paid $20,000 for about 1,000 Golden Comet chickens, egg equipment, “tons of egg cartons,” movable coops and the existing customers, set up a lease agreement for 3 acres of LaValley’s fields, and named it all Woodward Family Farm.

During an interview Wednesday, Woodward explained they’ve already bought 200 more chickens and have settled into their new roles as independent, farm business owners.

“I wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning, come here and open all the doors, check on their food, check on their water,” said Woodward. He then spends the rest of the day working intermittently for LaValley and Woodward farms while Jocelyn, who is in charge of the business accounting, works one of her two jobs at TD Bank and Live Juice in Concord.

The eggs – between 800 and 900 each day that are farm-fresh and free-range – are collected in baskets and then Woodward washes, loads in cartons, stores in refrigerators and delivers them to local farmstands, restaurants and stores throughout the state, as well as Massachusetts.

On a regular basis, Woodward or Therrien stop in the middle of their day to take a photo and post it to their Instagram or Facebook page, which act as their main marketing tools.

And they also just spend time with the chickens. On Wednesday, both stood in the middle of hens pecking the grass around them, and Therrien picked up a few of the younger ones they had just bought.

Woodward at one point took out a bag of old doughnuts that he dumped onto the grass. The chickens, running a little like dinosaurs, charged toward the pastries.

When those were gone, they simply followed their farmers around.

Just as the day begins at Woodward Family Farm, it also ends there.

“Right now at 9 o’clock, we come here and close the doors,” said Woodward.

Beginning this fall, Woodward and Therrien will handle their first batch of aging laying hens and experience the tight margins of farming – at 2 years, Woodward said hens will be bought for processing by Vernon Family Farms at $4 a bird.

“I can’t keep them forever,” he said. “That’s when their egg production goes down – the egg to grain ratio isn’t worth it.”

When they’re not on their farm plot, the couple lives on another, Pritchard Farm in Pembroke. They receive good advice from that farmer, 22-year-old Jay Pritchard – “my go-to guy,” said Woodward – from LaValley and from others they’ve met through the process.

“I guess we want to expand out from chickens and do produce in the future,” said Therrien, who gained her farming experience by working for LaValley beginning at age 16.

As for buying a place of their own, she added, “We’re just not at the point to look for our own farm.”

That is, however, the vision.

“I couldn’t do anything else – I’ve been doing it for so long now and I enjoy it so much,” said Woodward.

“It’s never what I expected to do but I started liking it at the farmstand at LaValley,” said Therrien. Since then, she added, she’s become more passionate about providing opportunities for people to buy local food.

“Knowing where your food comes from is really important,” she said.

In the wider scheme of things, LaValley Farms owner Chris LaValley said it’s also imperative that young people like Woodward and Therrien take this work on.

“We did the same thing, me and my wife,” he said. “We call it the school of hard-knocks. You learn by doing and messing up and paying the consequences.”

But there aren’t many taking the “hard-knock” route. A recent study shows, for example, that nearly 30 percent of New England farmers are looking to retire in the next 10 years, and 90 percent of those farmers don’t have a young person to take over.

“That is our fear as we get older,” said Chris LaValley. “Our retirement is the next generation.”

LaValley added that his farm makes a special effort to employ young, local students during the summer so that they can learn what farming is, and if they like it.

“I hope to see some more of the next generation wanting to do it,” said LaValley.

Apparently, that worked well for Therrien and Woodward.

“He’s really taken a rough draft and finalized it,” LaValley said of Woodward. He said that their bottom line was better than it had been at LaValley Farms, and he also observed that the chickens looked healthier.

“Those birds are happy,” he said.

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, ereed@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)