Farmers are the backbone of our society. They are the ones who provide us all the food that we eat. It isn’t the farm that makes the farmer; it is the love, hard work, and character. To Joe and Rachel Shenk of Newport, their farm is more than land and crops. It is their family’s heritage and future. They established Shenk Family Farm in February 2017 and found out the very next month that they were expecting their first child. Mason was born on October 6th, 2017.
Before they had considered starting a family, Joe felt very strongly that he didn't want to work full time away from home. The goal was that they would spend lots of meaningful time together as a family, working alongside each other. He and Rachel both had some farming in their extended families. They appreciated the lifestyle and the character of the people they knew in agriculture. Being first-generation farmers with no inherited land or equipment, they started in the fall of 2016, with five laying hens (for eggs) and 40 meat chickens in their backyard, just to get their feet wet raising some of their own food. They shared meat and eggs with friends and family and were encouraged to start a business, as there were no other local farms that offered chickens like theirs at the time.
Once Rachel and Joe established Shenk Farm, they leased a couple of acres and began with a small laying flock of 50 hens, raised a few hundred meat chickens and a handful of Thanksgiving turkeys. They quickly grew out of space by the end of 2018 and began leasing 20 acres of open land and 32 acres of woodlot to significantly expand their poultry operation and have the room and flexibility to start adding larger livestock to the farm. This upcoming year, Joe and Rachel plan to raise 3,000 meat chickens, 200 laying hens, 50 pigs, 150 turkeys, and add cattle to the farm to provide local beef in the future.
I was lucky enough in January to tour their farm with my three grandchildren who live in the Raleigh area and who have no access to see how a farm is run. It was amazing to see their faces when 3-year-old Mason took them to see his chickens. Those baby pigs were so cute that Emerson, my 6-year-old granddaughter, asked to bring one home for a pet!
Shenk Family Farm provides quality meat and poultry products to ensure happy and healthy animals, community, and farmers. Rachel says, “We are a small farm that raises chickens for both meat and eggs, pigs, and turkeys at Thanksgiving. We love that we get to build something together as a family that our community desires and enjoys. We get to teach Mason the importance of hard work, how to respect and care for animals, and we get to spend so much more time with him. And we love getting to have relationships with our customers, swap recipes, and provide them with delicious and nutritious sustenance.”
Joe says, “Our customers truly are the backbone of our farm, not only supporting us by purchasing our products, but by checking in with us and offering encouragement.”
You can reach Joe and Rachel by calling or texting at 252-622-6803, or visit their website at www.shenkfamilyfarm.com. They arrange weekly pick-ups of products you reserve online at the following locations: Newport (farmer home at 842 Chatham Street) every Wednesday from 4:30–5:30 pm, Morehead City (Shevans Park at 1501 Evans Street) every Wednesday from 4:30–5:39 pm, and in Beaufort (300 Courthouse Square) every Saturday at 10 am. Monthly pick-ups are in New Bern (Dunkin at Taberna at 120 Taberna Way) third Monday of the month at 12 pm.
Rebecca Jones is a contract writer for the Carteret News-Times and the newest member of the Carteret Local Food Network blog writing team. She was born and raised in the Piedmont Triad area where she spent most of her life. She has two grown children and 6 grandchildren. Writing has always been a part of her life and she believes that it is a way to showcase and bring awareness to events that affect your community. In April of 2018, Rebecca and her husband George moved to Beaufort, NC. Her most recent two books, Love Brings You Home (about Hurricane Florence) and Go Deep (a devotional with photos), are sold locally and on Amazon.