Painting the Farm Red: The Chicken-Slaughtering Pinup Girls of Marion Acres
Photography by Chandra Vallely
At Marion Acres, we thoughtfully raise chickens on pasture to provide our customers with healthy and well cared for meat. Once a year, friends and family of Marion Acres gather up all the girls to do what we like to call our "Ladies’ Chicken Harvest." All the ladies get dressed in vintage clothes, pin-up inspired hair, and of course, red lipstick to do our butchering. We couldn’t think of a better way to knock em’ dead! This was our second annual event and we are already looking forward to more. Ten ladies participated this year and all played a role in the processing of 140 chickens for one of our seasonal harvests.
Ingrid Huey helped at our first Ladies Chicken Harvest and just had to come back for another year. Who can resist getting all dolled up for a good old fashioned chicken harvest? “I’ll be back again next year!” she said.
Elisha Joyce, a food culture blogger and author, was deeply impacted by the harvest and said the experience changed how she eats and feeds her family.
Each chicken is handled with care and placed in a crate to be brought from the pasture up to our butchering station. We start our chicks on pasture as soon as their feathers are thick enough to keep them warm through the chilly summer night. We move them to pasture the chickens onto fresh green bug and grass filled pasture every day up until harvest.
It all started when John Mathia (right) was looking to start a modest farm. He called up Geoff Scott and asked if he might want to go in on it together, since they both shared a love for farm life, poultry and the outdoors. Geoff and John formed the perfect partnership and a lifetime of farming and friendship was born.
Some of the girls get a ride up the hill to our butchering station after loading up 140 chickens.
Harvest days always start with homemade pastries and fresh coffee from a our local Portland favorite, Dapper & Wise Roasters
Before we begin, Geoff says a prayer for our day, then runs through safety, cleanliness, and all the logistics of the day. Most of the women have no idea what to expect — like many of us, the closest they get to a chicken is a pre-packaged bird at the grocery store. This is an eye opening and exciting event for the Ladies involved, but there are lots of details that need to be covered.
All equipment is tested before beginning the harvest in our new outdoor facility.
Some of the women unload the crates from the trailers, surprised at how heavy they are. Regular farmhands make it seem effortless.
A lady slaughters a chicken in one of our chicken cones.
“I was nervous going into the harvest. Having consumed meat my entire life, I felt like it would be an important day of reckoning; a chance to acknowledge the death that has taken place over the years in order to make a chicken dinner on my table possible.” Said Amy. Here she prepares the chickens for the plucker; a large barrel with rubber fingers that quickly plucks the chickens.
After they are plucked, the chickens head and feet are removed, then cleaned, and moved on down the line for the ladies to do a final inspection. Once the chicken is done, it goes into a series of chilling tanks to await packaging.
Our chickens are well cared for from day one and live a happy life in the sunshine on fresh pasture, just as they were intended. When the day is done, all the women go home appreciating where our food comes from.