Justin Rhodes refers to himself “the apron-wearing, permaculture chicken-ninja master” but could more aptly be termed “the sustainable-chicken raising missionary.”
Through videos and posts on his website, Abundant Permaculture, and a longer film in the works, Rhodes wants to teach you how to raise a flock of your own. He’s a 37-year-old ninth-generation North Carolinian who raises chickens (he prefers to call them dinosaurs) for meat and eggs, and cattle for milk, meat, and labor. Rhodes tells Modern Farmer that it was the prophetic words of a possibly drunk, homeless man who warned Rhodes and a friend that they would have to “live off the land” in order to survive that led him to first change his diet.
“I don’t know, for some reason we took it as a challenge and immediately ditched a bunch of processed foods,” he explains. “I realized that I could easily grow this stuff myself and save a ton of money.” Rhodes and his family are now homesteading on eight acres of the 75 acres they own near Asheville, North Carolina.
Modern Farmer: Why do you consider yourself a modern farmer?
Justin Rhodes: Because I use (and love) me some iPhone 6. I don’t use modern technology to watch my friends play with their cat. I use modern technology to access the world’s information to create a better farm, teach others how to do the same, and change this world for the better.
MF: Why is it important to you to support local agriculture?
JR: The pursuit of freedom is at the heart of everything I do, and being sustainable is a huge means to that end. However, you can’t be truly self-sustainable. It takes a community. I can’t (and don’t want to) grow everything I consume. I’m dang good at chickens, and you might be excellent with pigs. So, let’s support each other. Maybe I can give you some feathers and chicken manure and you can give me some pork rinds and lard.
MF: If you could grow or raise any food or animal, what would it be and why?
JR: The chicken because they’re pretty much the best ever. Of course you can eat them (and their eggs, duh). But you can also eat the egg shells (great calcium), the feet, the offal, the testicles, yes, pretty much everything. But, they also work their little tails off all freakin’ day (and love it). They can till, fertilize, spread mulch, de-bug, de-weed, plant seeds, and even help in the harvest. You can also use their feathers in fly fishing, and capture the gas from their poop to create fuel. Oh, and they’re so easy to raise, easy to come by, and absolutely forgiving. They are very hard to beat.
MF: What’s your favorite vegetable?
MF: If you could give other modern farmers any advice, what would it be?
JR: Publish the bejesus out of what you’re doing to build an audience around what you do. If you like to write, publish a blog. If you like to take pictures, post to Instagram. If you like to yap, publish a podcast. If you like to shoot video, publish on YouTube. Take advantage of the powerful tools to spread your good message, build your audience, and eventually create a solution to your audience’s key problem. Sell it, and create a right livelihood for yourself.
MF: Do you have a farming/agricultural hero? Why do you admire them?
JR: Joel Salatin. Because, you know, who doesn’t say that’s their ag hero? Well, besides, he’s the first guy I followed in learning how to run a farm. He’s “beast mode” in business and producing great content (awesome books and phenomenal speaker).
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