Kellner Back Acre GardenMiles to Market - 100 Located 5561 Cooperstown Rd.
The henhouse at Kellner Back Acre Garden in Denmark, Wisconsin is a cacophony of noises, smells and sights. If you’ve never had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with a couple thousand prancing, clucking, pecking chickens the constant buzz veers between the enjoyable and the ridiculous so much that you can’t help but smile. It’s a fowl harmony that farmer Nancy Kellner has heard since she was a child and has come to love. “We’ve always had chickens, but small, maybe like fifty to a hundred and then we’d just sell eggs off the farm and then it just grew from there.”
Today Nancy and her husband, Tom, have close to 3000 flightless fowl on their forty-acre farm. What started as dairy farm forty years ago changed eighteen years ago when Nancy discovered she had breast cancer. It was a diagnosis that made her rethink what she was putting into her body and spurred her and her husband to start farming chickens the natural way. “We’re hands on with our birds, number one and we don’t spray them or feed them any antibiotics. We pasture graze them. Every seven days we switch them into a different pen and then in the winter we grow fodder, which are trays of wheat grass, that we give them as a substitute for fresh grass. We feed them some grains in the winter but in the summer, we hardly feed them any grains at all because they’re all out on pasture. We wanted to get back to the basics like grandma and grandpa did.”
Recently Nancy added another bird to her flock by being the only vendor at Outpost selling fresh duck eggs. Similar to a chicken egg, a duck egg has a harder outer shell and contains a richer, darker yolk. They’re used in the same way a chicken egg is but are especially good for baking. “So many of my customers would tell me they can’t buy chicken eggs because they have a chicken allergy so then I thought I’d try duck eggs. Even my daughter, Courtney was allergic to chicken eggs and told me her doctor said she could eat duck eggs because the oils are different in the duck eggs even though the duck is fed the exact same thing as the chicken.” Science!
Nancy admits that there are easier ways to run a farm with more machinery, more chemicals and less oversight but the Kellner’s wouldn’t change about what they’re doing. “Everyone thinks that chickens are so easy. I mean, we can’t leave the farm. We do hands-on on here. We hand feed them. We don’t have augers like those big commercial farms. Our thinking is you’ve got to walk in there and you’ve got to see the health of the chicken. If something is happening. Are they stressed? You can tell by the egg too if they’re stressed. So, that’s what we wanted to do on the farm is be more hands-on.”
At nineteen years cancer-free Nancy can’t imagine living life any other way and she thinks her grandchildren are learning to appreciate it too. “Last weekend I had the grandkids over and we were picking kale and the five-year-old was eating it and I said ‘Oh, we’re going to feed that to the goats,’ because it was kind of wilted so I was handing it to him to give to the goats and he’s eating and giving it to the goat and then taking another bite himself. When you see something like that it it’s like hey, this is worth it when you see the kids enjoy the food as much as we do.”