Biz Buzz: For the Hawkins sisters, it is chicken feed

Hawkins Sisters Ranch has been milling its own feed in small two-ton batches since 2013 using wheat from the Woody Wolfe’s farm in Wallowa.
Kathleen Ellyn

Wallowa County Chieftain

Published on January 24, 2018 1:38PM

Hawkins Sisters Ranch chicks chow down on the homegrown chicken food blend invented by the Ranch. That blend is now available to every chicken fancier in Wallowa County.

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Hawkins Sisters Ranch chicks chow down on the homegrown chicken food blend invented by the Ranch. That blend is now available to every chicken fancier in Wallowa County.

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Two new businesses will serve county’s tourism industry from Joseph

Chickens are a big deal in Wallowa County and across the U.S. Try to find a good “egg lady” who can supply you with farm fresh eggs year-round. It’s not that easy.

Here at the Chieftain, we have two sources for homegrown eggs we contact regularly just in case one is out of eggs. I swing by a third egg provider when I go to Wallowa to cover a story in that direction.

Chickens are seasonal layers, just as all farm animals are seasonal. Chickens can be made to produce eggs 24/7 by putting them under lights, but that’s one of the reasons we buy farm fresh eggs. Farm chickens are not exposed to lights to force them to continue producing eggs until they burn out and die.

But egg-laying seasons can be extended in a variety of ways that are not cruel to chickens. Yes, lighting the chicken house so that the days are longer can be done humanely.

Also, certain breeds of chicken lay better in winter months than others. And, of course, proper feed, pasture, free-range time and conscientious care can make for more fertile birds.

So, when we (chicken and egg lovers) heard that Grain Growers Custom Mill at 802 Depot Street in Enterprise was taking on the production of the Hawkins Sisters Ranch layer and grower feeds, we were excited.

The mill exists specifically to do this sort of thing: support both local grain growers and local livestock managers youth to adult.

“It’s kind of a big deal for grain farmers,” said Jessi Voss, office manager. “Grain farmers have a guaranteed sale of their crops because we contract with them to do it. We pick up the grain from the field and bring it straight to the mill. There is no middleman. So, we are working with the farmers in the county to sustain agriculture.”

It’s kind of a big deal to small farmers, too.

Hawkins Sisters Ranch has been milling its own feed in small two-ton batches since 2013 using wheat from the Woody Wolfe’s farm in Wallowa. They would ship in the other ingredients from trusted sources: peas from Union County and minerals, calcium and probiotics made by Fertrell Organic Crops Co. No genetically modified ingredients are added to the feed.

Last year Mary Hawkins got to talking with former county commissioner and now general manager at Grain Growers, Mike Hayward, and realized there was a better way.

By using the Grain Growers facility to mix their blends, Hawkins could be free of the bother, source more ingredients locally and help the local mill serve more chicken growers.

“We had people who wanted that feed and we were scrounging old bags and meeting people in parking lots and it was just not efficient,” said Hawkins. “I spent a lot of time sourcing ingredients and milling it and this will allow me to focus on raising chickens and processing chickens.”

There’s a demand all right.

“We’ve only been doing it for three weeks and we have a lot of people pretty excited about it,” said Voss. “We have local people coming in for 50 pounds of layer feed at a time ($20) and people from Pendleton coming down and grabbing tons ($550 per ton tote) at a time.”

Grower feed is more expensive ($775 a ton).

The feed still contains Wallowa and Union County grains and peas and a custom blend of probiotics (Lac Zyme) and minerals supplied by Fertrell Organic Crops. No corn. Most corn varieties are genetically modified.

Fertrell helped develop the feed recipes based on what was locally available (so they could see what minerals were available and needed), said Hawkins.

Call the Wallowa County Grain Growers Bulk Feed Dept. at 541-426-3116, ext. 5 or visit hawkinssistersranch.com.

IT MAY still be January on the calendar, but it’s not too early to dream about warm summer days strolling downtown Joseph or relaxing at the lake.

Two new businesses will be part of the action this summer. Pioneer Portraits is owned by Ashley Burton and JO Trolley service is owned and operated by her brother, Robert Nichols, of Joseph.

Burton, who has 14 years of photography experience, will open an old-fashioned portrait studio complete with costumes and scenes out of the Old West. The business will be at 203 N. Main Suite 203 in Joseph, adjacent to the former quilt shop.

“We are custom-making all of the outfits,” Burton said.

Burton hopes to open May 1 in time for high tourist season. She recently moved to Wallowa County from Georgia and is also a wedding and portrait photographer.

Nichols has been working to restore an old-fashioned trolley and hopes to have it up and running to ferry guests in the coming weeks.

The businesses have a further family connection. Brenda Shelton, mother of Ashley and Robert, has also moved to Wallowa County to help out wherever needed.



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