ST. ALBANS – Andrew Judge, founder of Seeds for Growth, hopes to implement the chicken pot pie project again this year, but on a much larger scale.
Last time around, Judge worked mainly on his own. He reached out to the University of Vermont’s Extension Embryology Program for free chicks. He raised them, losing a few to foxes and hawks along the way.
He drove to the Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury to process and package the chickens. When the chicken pot pies were donated to Martha’s Kitchen in the fall, 19 birds went to create more than 180 pot pies.
This year, Judge has upped the stakes. The UVM program agreed to donate 300 chickens to the project. However, Judge can’t raise 300 chickens in his two-acre backyard.
This is where the public comes into play.
“We’re looking for people to raise these birds for seven weeks,” Judge said. “They provide the food and water. We provide the coop and the birds and we provide the processing.”
“What they get back is just like they would in a store,” he explained. “Vacuum sealed, USDA certified [chicken]. And these birds last a long time in the freezer.”
Judge hopes people will come forward to raise up to 15 chickens. Of that total, only one third will be donated to the pot pie project. The rest will be processed and returned to the people who raised them for consumption.
“I’d keep one third,” he said. “From 100 chickens, I could make 1,000 pot pies.”
The chickens would be raised in eight by four foot mobile coops, made out of reclaimed lumber. “You can put up to 25 birds in the coop,” Judge said. He used the same design for last year’s project. “You can move the coop across the lawn.”
“We are going to manufacture our own coops,” he said. “These are light weight coops, predator proof. Ideally, everyone who’s getting chickens will come and help build their own coop and that of their friends and neighbors. It’s like a barn raising.”
Anyone who participates would get the birds on May 27 and seven weeks later, the chickens would be picked up for processing.
The third of the meat donated to the project would go into pot pies, later to be distributed to NorthWest Family Foods, Martha’s Kitchen and other organizations that reach the food insecure.
“It’s an opportunity to reach out into the community for the kind of support that food shelves need,” Robert Ostermeyer of NorthWest Family Foods said.
According to Ostermeyer, 30 to 50 families stop by the food shelf daily, an increase of 20 percent from last year.
“Our ability to make use of resources in the community becomes more and more important,” he said. “Projects like Andrew’s are wonderful ways that we can reach out to the community to get the kind of support that we’re going to need going forward.”
Raising chickens isn’t the only way the community can help with the project.
“There’s a lot of way you can be a part,” Judge said. “Help us build coops. Help us make the pot pies when its time.”
“We’re looking for people who want to raise beds and build gardens with them,” Judge said. “UVM is going to supply seeds specifically for the pot pies so folks can grow vegetables.”
Once again, the gardeners would keep two thirds of the vegetables they grow, while one third would go to the pot pie project. “Then we have as many locally grown vegetables for the pot pies as possible,” he said.
Judge said he needs one person to step forward and say they will take care of the birds. He believes it will have a ripple effect in the community, encouraging more people to volunteer.
“We’re hoping it’ll be something a family can do together,” Judge said. “You know, there’s a lot of people who grew up on farms and maybe it’ll be a way of them teaching their kids the value of raising your own food.”
Anyone who is interested in participating or wants to learn more can attend an informational meeting on Feb. 19 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the State Building conference room on Federal St. in St. Albans.
Questions can also be directed to Lisa Judge at firstname.lastname@example.org.