One Farmer’s Story: Part I

By Danette Vernon

The gate to the Keegan-Filion Farm swung open on its power driven hinges, opening me to old memories. Recollections of long gravel lanes and the wonders of small precarious lives trailed after me as I drove past yellow fields full of flowering turnips gone sweetly to seed.

As I peeked into the barn at the end of the driveway, I was immediately introduced to the real life of raising farm animals on a larger scale, $10,000 is spent monthly on half a semi-trailer full of feed that takes care of the animals I was about to meet, as well as those on outer-lying farms.

Marc and Annie own and operate Keegan-Filion Farm, a farm that produces pasture-raised chicken and pork, as well as fresh eggs.

Marc explained, as we herded a small flock of pale yellow pullets (have grown turkey chicks) back into their enclosure, that it takes four hours a day to feed, water, and move and clean all of the “homes on skids” that house the baby turkeys, chicks, chickens, and the baby pigs that encircled the farm.

Marc and Annie get up at 4 in the morning everyday. Marc is gone from the farm, five days a week, working as a manager of five branches of ALP industries. While away, Marc takes the time in the evenings, despite the 4 a.m.  alarm, to laugh along with “Duck Dynasty” television characters as they work through their farm troubles, as it reminds him of home.  When I realized the hours he put in at work, and on the farm, I asked if he and Annie had a five year plan. They did. They had hoped to both be on the farm, free of the encumbrance of outside employment by last December. It hadn’t worked out that way — not yet.

What was Mother’s Day like for Annie? She helped load 400 chickens that Sunday, the following Monday morning she drove 200 miles round trip to the processing plant (Williamsburg Packing Company, a processing plant that is certified as a humane slaughter operation). On Wednesday, Annie was back to the processing plant for pick up. Thursdays she makes deliveries to various restaurants in the Charleston area, and Friday mornings she packs for the farmers markets that she and Marc will attend on Saturday. On Monday and Friday afternoons you can find Annie, from 1-6 p.m. running Organic Annie’s Market right on the farm in Walterboro.

Marc and Annie run the largest operation of its kind in South Carolina, spending $5,000 a year on product insurance, upgrading as they can with various amenities such as a walk-in freezer and a walk-in refrigeration unit; units that cost upwards of $600 a month in electricity. Your eggs, once collected, are kept cold till delivery, and are delivered in a refrigerated truck.

Some of the little chicks on the Keegan-Filion farm become laying hens, chickens that talk to themselves as chickens do, murmuring and clucking softly, out in a big grassy field, hoping for the day that June Bug season will start.

I used to buy all of my eggs at Walmart. I bought eggs labeled “cage free” after seeing a few video clips of how factory farms get their eggs, but I knew deep down, I wasn’t supporting a farmer who took much better care of his chickens than the factory farms.

Today, I went local. I now support Keegan-Filion Farms at the Port Royal Farmer’s Market. Here’s to June Bugs and freedom — it’s worth every penny.

But what exactly does pasture-raised pork and chicken mean on Keegan-Filion Farm? For more information about the farm-fresh eggs and the operation go to: http://www.keeganfilionfarm.com.

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