For Taylor Farley, the chickens definitely came first, then the eggs. Hundreds of them. Then thousands of them. Enough for the 14-year-old budding agricultural entrepreneur to pay for piano lessons and to begin saving for college.
Taylor is a Franklin County home-school student who decided three years ago that it might be fun to participate in a four-county pullet chain. Through the project — offered by 4-H in Franklin, Granville, Vance and Warren counties — young people raise 10 one-day-old chicks from spring to November, when they take them to a poultry show and sale.
Little did Taylor or her parents know that the backyard chicken project would grow tremendously and help the once shy girl open up and become a frequent (and award-winning) speaker and leader for the county’s 4-H poultry activities.
Nor did they imagine that it would lead three generations of her family into a small, sustainable farming operation that they now call Walk Ahead Farms.
Taylor Farley (center) has gotten support in her entrepreneurial activities from her 4-H agent, Meg Wyatt (left), and her mother, Stephanie Farley.
Taylor’s mom, Stephanie Farley, named the farm “Walk Ahead” because, Stephanie says, the family “was stepping out into something unknown. This isn’t something our family was planning to do at all. But we have definitely taken the plunge.
“The way this started out was simple and small, but it’s just continuously grown, Last year, I thought it was a big deal to have 25 chickens,” she adds. “But at one point this year, we were up to a hundred. And we started with one goat. Now look – they are everywhere.”
Today, the Farleys raise herbs, vegetables, flowers, potted plants, about 90 chickens and 12 meat goats on their Youngsville property. They sell their products, including eggs, at the Franklin County farmers market, at roadside stands, to friends and to a customer with a community-supported agriculture operation, or CSA.
Taylor is involved with all aspects of the farm. The family has several portable poultry houses that Taylor helped build. Every day, they move the houses so the chickens will be on fresh grass. She also helps take care of the goats, hatches chicken eggs in her bedroom and helps set up and sell items at the farmers’ market.
But Taylor – who hopes, perhaps, to become a veterinarian – says she has learned more from the farm than just how to take care of animals and to market farm products. She’s also learned about processing poultry meat, judging poultry and goats, making presentations on poultry and livestock, and leading and teaching other 4-H’ers about topics such as goat care and animal safety. She’s even taken her goats and chickens to visit patients in local nursing homes.
Earlier this year, Taylor won the 9- to 13-year-old division of the statewide 4-H poultry judging contest, and her team placed first as well. Both contests took place at N.C. State University.
Taylor says that she’s gained self-confidence from 4-H. “Before I was really, really shy,” Taylor said. “I’m still shy, but not as much as I was before.”
Taylor is now involved with all aspects of Walk Ahead Farms, including the vegetable garden.
That experience echoes the one her mother had as a 4-H’er in the 1980s. Stephanie’s parents, who owned a horse farm, started a 4-H horse club in in the 1980s. Stephanie’s mother, Kitty Basham, says the club started out as a way to get her daughter involved with other children with similar interests, but in the process, “4-H and the horses brought Stephanie out so much.”
Taylor’s 4-H agent Meg Wyatt says that it’s been a privilege to watch Taylor blossom into a self-confident young leader.
“Taylor is a true example of a young person … becoming very excited about something and wanting to make a difference in her county,” Wyatt says. “Through 4-H, she has taken her knowledge and turned it into a successful business in hopes of teaching others about what she does and why she loves poultry.”
Story Courtesy of CALS