Warner Springs and Murrieta farm raises pastured chickens, rebuilds healthy soils and grasslands, and coexists with wildlife
Story and photos @Pasturebird and Primal Pastures.
January 27, 2018 (Warner Springs) -- Most people don’t set up a wholesale pastured poultry operation in an area known for its mountain lion activity as much as for its orchards. Yet for farmer Paul Grieve of Pasturebird, flourishing habitat is an integral part of farming. “The important thing to us is that we build an ecosystem. Our role is to steward the land and grow a great environment for Mother Nature.”
On its newest farm site—100 acres of a 1000-acre parcel that meets the Palomar and Iron Spring Mountains in Warner Springs—Paul and his family are restoring a former potato field to permanent pasture. They ensure wildlife corridors remain open and use a variety of methods to protect their chickens, in order that a variety of wildlife can pass through the property.
“We end up seeing snakes, rabbits, birds, worms, deer, and coyotes,” he says. “I love being able to see those guys come through the farm but not interrupt our operations. Knowing that mountain lions are around makes it even better. It means we’re doing something right.”
This sentiment, together with a variety of husbandry practices to meet the farm’s stewardship mission, has enabled Pasturebird and sister location, Primal Pastures, to become Southern California’s first farm to achieve Certified Wildlife Friendly® status. Certified Wildlife Friendly® recognizes farms and ranches committed to regenerative practices that enable wildlife and livestock to coexist. The farm is working to restore perennial grasslands. It uses managed, multi-species grazing practices to improve soil. It conserves wildlife corridors, and relies upon proactive, humane practices to deter predators, among other key attributes.
Along with peers around the globe, Pasturebird and Primal Pastures are part of a progressive wave of agriculture that models the critical role of farms and ranches in sustaining wildlife and habitat.
The farm’s efforts have been noticed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Lakers, both of which have accounts.
“Pasturebird's commitment to transparency and raising birds the way they were meant to live is truly inspiring,” says chef Alan Latourelle of Wolfgang Puck, another satisfied customer. Kitchen workers from the hospitality group’s Southern California staff recently toured the farm, gaining first-hand experience of what Pasturebird terms simply “real chicken.” Inspired by renowned grass farmer Joel Salatin of Virginia, Paul Greive and his family are committed to creating a scale-alternative to factory farming that cares for the land, the animals and consumers’ health.
The farm started simply enough, five years ago, from the family’s search for healthy food for its own use.
“We were paying a bunch of money for labels, but not good food,” explains Paul. “We wanted to eat meat that was not bad for the environment or our bodies,” he explains. “We couldn’t find what we were looking for.” And, so what began with an order of 54 chickens for personal use turned into a vocation for 2 generations and multiple branches of Paul’s family. Pasturebird, a wholesale operation opened in 2015, builds upon the success of Primal Pastures, the family’s direct-to-consumer farm in Murrieta.
Livestock guardian dogs are integral to the farm’s ability to coexist with wildlife. While predator losses were significant in the farm’s first true commercial year, the family quickly realized the use of lethal control “didn’t jibe at all with what we were doing,” says Paul. Rather, “we were working to “heal the land, heal the soil, and participate with nature.”
Today, the farm raises its own Anatolian Shepherd/Great Pyrenees mix guardians. The dogs help to protect the flock, which is moved to fresh pasture daily in open-air, floorless chicken tractors. The farm vision includes having its operations become carbon-neutral in a few years, by offsetting the energy put into tractors and other equipment through its soil building activities.
The farm’s practices mean it is a regional model. Winston Vickers, a veterinarian with the Southern California Mountain Lion Project states: “I am thrilled that Paul and his team are leading the way in the region by taking measures to not only protect their chickens and raise healthier ones, but simultaneously helping to keep wildlife populations and the ecosystems healthy. I applaud their foresight and leadership, and urge others to follow their great example.”
Its efforts mean great food, too. “Seeing chickens that you can tell are happy and healthy is refreshing in this day and age. I never thought I would be so excited about chickens” continues Chef Latourelle. Thank you Pasturebird for what you do, it makes our jobs much easier.”
About Pasturebird and Primal Pastures
Primal Pastures (direct to consumer) and Pasturebird (wholesale) farms raise pastured chicken in Southern California. By rotating the chickens to fresh pasture every single day, the farm’s chicken is not only healthy and delicious but also goes beyond sustainability to rebuild healthy, regenerative soils and grasslands.
Instead of using antibiotics to fight disease within the flock, Pasturebird and Primal Pastures use a healthy environment of pasture, sunshine, fresh air, and space to prevent sickness. Instead of marketing vegetarian-fed chicken (chickens are not vegetarians), they want their chickens to eat as many bugs and worms as possible. And instead of hiding their farm from the public, they believe that our best marketing is transparency, so regularly open the ranch for tours and events. For more information, contact Paul Greive via 855-4PASTURE or firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.pasturebird.com and www.primalpastures.com.
About Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network
The Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network and its Certified Wildlife Friendly® and Predator Friendly® programs represent farmers, ranchers, artisans and conservation heroes from around the world. Participating farms in North America maintain and enhance wildlife habitats and employ a mix of careful observation and proactive practices to allow wildlife and livestock to coexist.
Certified Wildlife Friendly® products contribute to the conservation of over twelve million hectares of diverse wetlands, forests, and grasslands; protect keystone endangered species in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, including wolves, elephants, cheetahs, red pandas and snow leopards, and benefit over 200,000 people through increased food security, income and employment. For more information visit: www.wildlifefriendly.org.