Located a short ferry ride from the mainland, Lummi Island features pretty little homesteads nestled amongst green pastures and wind swept trees. Nettles Farm is one of these island gems, featuring a cozy Bed & Breakfast, produces Oberhasi Goats and rare Sulmthaler Chickens. But the farm is perhaps best known for growing a special French blue?footed chicken as a partner in the Poulet Blue project. Discerning buyers are eager to line up for the flavorful gourmet poultry and every one of Nettles Farm owner Riley Starks’ current production is already spoken for.
These Poulet Blue chickens are raised on an all vegetable diet, and allowed to mature slowly. Unlike the rapidly grown Cornish Cross found in the typical American grocery store (harvested around 6 weeks of age), the Poulet Blue birds are allowed to mature as long as 16 weeks to achieve their hallmark flavor and texture. Poulet Bleu was patiently bred over 11 years using the famous Poulet de Bresse as an inspiration. Its flavor is very deep, yet its texture is silky and smooth, a fitting American rival for what is known as “The best chicken in the world”.
Demand for the birds created a challenge; how to process a large enough volume of birds to satisfy customer needs with no processing facilities on or near the island? Enter the Mobile Poultry Processing Unit (MPPU), an NABC project that was launched in the summer of 2014. With its three person processing crew the MPPU is designed to travel from its Skagit County base to farm sites 50 or more miles away. When this season’s new crew is up to speed, the MPPU will be able to process up to 250 birds a day, saving the farmer considerable fuel, time and physical labor. The MPPU makes it possible for a small farm to be confident in supplying its chickens throughout the state, using an efficient and very well designed facility that can be available intermittently throughout the year. It truly is a revolutionary way for small farmers to lead the charge in the battle over the chicken’s place in American
culture. By using the MPPU services, Nettles Farm was able to offer 1,000 vacuum packed, labeled chickens mid April, a processing volume that was well beyond what Riley and his capable farm staff alone could achieve.
In future, Riley hopes to build the market for his white?feathered, blue footed birds up to 20,000/year, by utilizing the MPPU, and share his passion for these special birds with a ever widening audience. For more information about Poulet Bleu or Nettles Farm please see http://www.pouletbleu.com. To learn more about MPPU services please see http://www.agbizcenter.org/ or call the NABC office at 360.336.3727.