By Micah Anderson, Seattle Tilth Farm Works Education Manager
Chris Sechrist had a problem: his young turkeys were easy prey for coyotes. And raccoons. Not to mention owls, hawks and the birds’ own calamitous curiosity. Electric fencing wasn’t sufficient; the curious jakes and jennies could easily slip through. Insistent on a pasture system that closely mirrors nature, raising turkeys indoors was simply not an option.
Chris’ surprise solution: two black sheep and a llama. The llama, having killed one coyote already, protects the sheep and the turkeys who share the paddock. Together they stay safe and each animal supports another within the system. Chris arrived at such an elegant solution, in part because he’s a meticulous planner, but also because he cares for his animals and has become intimately familiar with their strengths, needs and habits.
At 19, Chris is easily the youngest farmer at Seattle Tilth Farm Works. He’s earnest and eager to contribute to a food revolution that prizes healthy food that is raised naturally and with care. Chris began Windy Acre Farm in 2009, largely in response to his experience observing the relationship between food and health in the hospital wards where his own mother battled cancer. Windy Acre Farm continues to grow, and with his mother’s support, Chris continues striving to change the way food is viewed and produced in his community. “The most exciting part about farming,” says Chris, “is sharing the food with others.”
Our Seattle Tilth Farm Works staff is pleased that Chris introduced turkeys to our farm in Auburn. Good farms benefit from animals to ensure their ecological diversity, close fertility loops and enrich unutilized pasture. Though our farm staff had always envisioned farming with animals, they’d prioritized getting the vegetable systems in order first. This year, the timing is right to support animal systems and conscientious farmers like Chris.
If you would like to reserve a Standard Bronze turkey, pasture-raised on organic feed, to share with family and friends this holiday season, please visit seattletilth.org/csameat.
Originally printed in Seattle Tilth’s newsletter, Way to Grow, October-November 2014.