By Rebecca Jones, special to the News-Times
NEWPORT — Farmers are the backbone of our society. They are the ones who provide us with a lot of the food that we eat. It isn’t the farm that makes the farmer; it is the love, hard work and character.
To Joe and Rachel Shenk of Newport, their farm is more than just land and crops. It is their family’s heritage and future.
The couple established Shenk Family Farm in February 2017 and found out the next month that they were expecting their first child. Mason was born Oct. 6, 2017.
Before the couple considered starting a family, Joe felt very strongly that he didn’t want to work full-time away from the home. Joe wanted be able to spend meaningful time as a family, working alongside each other. He and Rachel both had some farming in their extended families and appreciated the lifestyle as well as the character of the people they knew in agriculture.
However, being first generational farmers with no inherited land or equipment, they started from scratch. In the fall of 2016, the couple began with 5 laying hens (for eggs) and 40 meat chickens in their backyard just to get their feet wet while raising some of their own food. They shared the meat and eggs with friends and family and were further encouraged to start a business since there were no other local farms that offered similar prodycts at that time.
Once the couple established the farm and a structure, they leased a couple acres from another local farm and began with chickens and turkeys consisting of a small laying flock of around 50, a few hundred meat chickens and a handful of Thanksgiving turkeys.
By the end of 2018, the farm quickly grew out of that space so the couple began leasing some new property with 20 acres of open land and 32 acres of woodlotwith the idea the farm could significantly expand its poultry operation and have the room and flexibility to begin adding larger livestock to the farm.
Moving forward, Joe and Rachel plan to raise around 3,000 meat chickens, 200 laying hens, 50 pigs, 150 turkeys as well as adding cattle to the farm to provide local beef.
The Shenk Family Farm exists to provide quality meat and poultry products in a way that ensures healthy animals, community products, and local farmers.
“We are a small farm that raises chickens for both meat and eggs, pigs, and turkeys at Thanksgiving,” Rachel said. “We love that we get to build something together as a family that our community desires and enjoys. We get to teach Mason the importance of hard work, how to respect and care for animals, and to spend so much more time with him. And we love getting to have relationships with our customers, swap recipes, and provide them with delicious and nutritious sustenance.”
Joe points to their relatonship with the community as an important pillar to the farm’s success.
“Our customers truly are the backbone of our farm, not only by supporting us by purchasing our products but by checking in with us, offering us words of encouragement,” Joes said.