Happier Farmers for a Healthier Food Supply: A Q+A With Corwin Heatwole, Founder of Farmer Focus
If you follow me on social media and have been around the website for a while, you know there are a few obsessions that I love to share as much as possible. One of them is most definitely the Farmer Focus chicken company, and I am so excited to bring you the founder of Farmer Focus Corwin Heatwole for our latest Clean Living Conversation!
Here’s what you need to know about the company: Farmer Focus is a company built by farmers, for farmers. Their goal is to empower their network of farmers to make the best decisions for their farms, their birds, and the planet, while upholding the company-wide values of organic, sustainable, and humane. As part of the Farmer Focus family, farmers have a lot of freedom to make their own choices! You’ll learn more about why that’s so important — and beneficial for you and your family’s health — below.
I’ve been a big fan of Farmer Focus for a few years now. Since discovering them and feeling passionate about getting their message out there, they’ve become a long-time partner and now, friends! This post is not sponsored, FYI. I just wanted to share the knowledge of Corwin with you all! One of my favorite things about buying Farmer Focus chicken is the Farm ID that you can find on every piece of packaging. You can use the Farm ID to trace that chicken back to the farm where it was raised. This gives me so much peace of mind, since it reminds me that the food I’m feeding my loved ones comes from a place that really cares.
Keep scrolling to learn more about Corwin and Farmer Focus!
You come from a long line of farmers. What do you love most about being part of this family tradition and working in the farming industry?
I’m blessed to be taking the lifestyle that I love, improving on it, and sharing that lifestyle with other farmers. I view Farmer Focus as an opportunity to shape the future of farming for the better. For me, it’s about taking the family tradition and making it better for generations to come.
What are the biggest challenges of working in the farming industry today?
Farming just isn’t sustainable for many anymore. I was raised on a farm with a large family. Growing up, I assumed that the farm would keep providing for our family. As I got older, it became clear that the farm that had provided for generations of my family was no longer going to provide for us all. My story isn’t a unique one, either. As corporate farming has grown, it’s come at the expense of small family farms.
I think, in many cases, the lack of freedom given to independent farmers is what turns the next generation away. These family farms are small businesses. They’re entrepreneurs. When the company they farm for takes the creativity and innovation out of their hands, that system becomes broken. It becomes worse for the farmers and the animals themselves. I think that’s the biggest problem we are trying to solve — how can we empower our farmers to innovate? When we do that, we create a better farming system for everyone.
You started your company with this question: “What can we do to improve generational family farming?” What is your personal answer to that question?
Farmer Focus started around a table with friends, a group of fellow farmers. We went around for a while talking about what we wanted to see in farming. It always came back to the same thing. Farmers just wanted to own their birds and their feed. They wanted to be able to make their own decisions again.
This conversation led to Farmer Focus. I think the best thing you can do to protect generational farming is empower independent farmers to farm the right way. For me and Farmer Focus, it’s not about making decisions for our farmers. It’s about giving them a place to start from — a standard — and seeing how they innovate and go beyond from there.
What do people need to know about the chicken industry? What should they look for and avoid when buying chicken to make sure it’s safe for their families?
I think many people believe “organic” means more than it does. We’re a 100% Organic company, but we didn’t just stop there, because we believe that isn’t enough. Honestly, it’s just the beginning of what we do.
Every one of our farms is certified USDA Organic, Certified Humane, GAP Step 3 Certified, and Non-GMO Project Verified. What all of that means in practice is that our birds have access to the outdoors if weather permits, more space to live naturally, and enrichments that encourage natural behavior. While those are the standards we hold every farmer to, many of our farmers go beyond those standards. We have farmers that spend cold nights with their birds to ensure the house stays warm enough. There is a farm family that makes Chicknik tables for their birds, a perch that makes it look like the birds are gathered for a nice family meal at a picnic table. Our farmers genuinely care and are invested in the welfare of their birds. That translates into a high quality of life for our birds, a more sustainable farm for our farmers, and a more delicious chicken for you.
Tell us more about the Farm ID system! How does that work and how does it benefit farmers and consumers?
Our Farm ID system is a four-letter code on every pack of Farmer Focus chicken that traces back to the farm. You can go onto our website and see where, by who, and how your chicken was raised.
Food has become pretty faceless. Growing up, I knew the people behind the food on my table. I knew the work my parents and people in my community put into every meal. Most of the time, I knew how hard we had worked to put that food right there. Our Farm ID is trying to bring that back. It’s allowing you to see the people working to bring you and your family a delicious meal. It’s a way to put real people back at the center of our food system. That’s something I think we’ve lost over time.
What can we do to support farmers everywhere?
It’s a big ask, but next time you’re in the grocery store, think about how all that food made its way there. Ask yourself, “Who are the farmers that brought it to me?” It’s likely that the less digging you have to do to answer that question, the better those farmers and their animals are being treated. The more people ask those questions and go out of their way to understand the people behind their food, the more our food system will improve.
Where do you see Farmer Focus in five years? Ten years? What are your goals for the company?
In five years, I’d love to see our products available to more people nationally. We’re limited to the east coast right now. The more people we can get our product in front of, the more farmers we can bring into our community.
Ten years is a long way off, so there is no telling what we’ll be doing then. We’re always working through innovation that’s centered around animal welfare and sustainability. We’ve got some exciting projects going on right now that I believe will change poultry farming for the better. In the long run, I’d love to find a way to make those innovations accessible to the larger farming community.
Let’s turn to our Clean Living Conversations signature questions! You’ll find these questions in every installment of this Q+A series!
What is one thing that is guaranteed to make you laugh? We always like a good chicken joke.
What do you eat for breakfast? Every morning, I get up and read and write for 1-2 hours. I like to call that “Corwin Time.” I’ll have two eggs, some pork, some toast, and my second cup of coffee.
What’s one assumption about the farming industry that you’re tired of hearing? Most people assume that all farmers own the animals on their farms and have a lot more freedom than they actually do. Since most farmers don’t own those animals, they don’t have the freedom or control on their own farm to make the changes they want to make. Even the smallest decisions around what to feed the birds, the living conditions, and how the farm operates are usually dictated from above. When farmers lose control of those decisions, that’s how we lose focus on what’s best for the animals.
Finish this sentence: I never leave the house without… My cell phone, of course — and the notes I made that morning.
Do you like what you’re hearing about Farmer Focus?
The best way to support Corwin’s mission to improve the farming industry and our food system as a whole is to buy chicken from the Farmer Focus community of farmers! Shop online or learn more about where Farmer Focus chicken is available near you here. Once you have your chicken, you can enter your Farm ID here! I know you’re going to love Farmer Focus as much as I do. Thanks so much to Corwin for sharing this story with us!
March 12, 2021
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