The shady nooks, patches of green grass, fresh air and occasional renegade chicken wandering the grounds of McCauley Family Farm in Longmont make this picturesque property feel like the real deal, but it's more than just a pretty picture. Owner Marcus McCauley wants to raise good food and bring life back to some of the empty pastures around Boulder Country.
"It's all about how we choose to nourish ourselves and how that can heal the land," says McCauley, who is part of an effort to revitalize acres of city-owned open land that's been deemed unusable. It's hard work, he says, but, "on the upside, it's a delicious and healthy experience."
McCauley grew up in Oklahoma and has been in Colorado for ten years. He started his farm seven years ago and lives on the property, in an old homesteader's cottage, with his wife and son. The big house next to it was built in the 1970s and looks like the perfect farm getaway, which anyone can experience by booking it on Airbnb.
The main product from the farm comes in chicken form; McCauley raises about 4,500 birds for meat and another 400 for eggs. All of the heritage birds reside in a large fenced-in lot with a henhouse in the center. Every week, McCauley moves the birds to fresh pasture to forage and fertilize the area. Occasionally one escapes, but McCauley doesn't sweat it. Usually, he says, they come home to roost.
"This is what pasture-raised looks like, and this is what happens if you know your farmer," he says as we watch the beautiful birds peck for food and wander about the yard.
McCauley laments how hard it is to get his wholesome chicken in commercial kitchens due to cost efficiency and other issues. He says that Potager buys 25 chickens a week, and Paul O'Reilly of Beast + Bottle and Coperta has purchased meat from him as well. But in general, he says, most of his sales come from private citizens.
Aside from poultry, the farm also raises lambs, heritage-breed pigs and a few llamas and alpacas, who help guard the sheep. McCauley grows vegetables for sale and to use as animal feed; one of his specialties is chiles, which he uses to make his own Picaflor line of fermented pepper flakes (great on pizza) and hot sauces, and he also sells canned beets, carrots and cucumbers. The produce is grown on the farm, but processing and packaging happens off-location, at a space in Boulder.
McCauley likes to share his knowledge, so he invites other farmers to classes he teaches on his farm so that they can learn how to keep income flowing even in the winter. He also wants people to know what it's like to work the land, what it means for Boulder County and Colorado to keep the ecosystem whole and healthy, and the importance of sustainable farming.
"You can't take a broken ecosystem and put it on a shelf," says McCauley, adding that there are 1,000 dusty acres all around Boulder County just like the forty he is regenerating. "It's spring, and they look like a moonscape."
Part of the rejuvenation process involves keylining, a form of deep plowing and contouring to maximize water efficiency, and bringing in animals to fertilize, gently mold and work soil. Pigs can help rough up a spot when the farm needs to move a new crop in, and chicken droppings make great fertilizer.
"I have a dream about taking this dried land and everybody using it to grow the food that goes to our schools," he says.
For now, find McCauley Family Farm eggs, chicken and other meats and products at the Boulder Farmers' Market, Union Station Farmers' Market, Longmont Farmers' Market, in select Whole Foods and Natural Grocers, or by signing up for a chicken CSA, where you'll get a selection of meats and eggs sent to you each month, starting at $40 for a quarter share (which includes one package each of breasts, wings and legs, and a whole chicken), plus $10 for delivery. The Picaflor fermented hot sauces and pepper flakes can be found year-round at select shops around town.
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