Our Sustainable Farming Story
Sustainable Farming at AJ's Happy Chick Farm
Sustainable farming is our way of life.
Sustainable farming at AJ’s Happy Chick Farm began as a way to celebrate the life of AJ Dedona, a truly remarkable soul who touched many lives around him, especially those of his best friend and wife, Susan, and his son Anthony. For 10 years AJ’s Happy Chick Farm operated as a hobby sustainable farm in Westchester, NY, selling a variety of fowl, and organic produce and canned goods. In 2017, after years of planning, AJHC relocated to Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom to continue our guiding principle of sustainable farming. Our new farm was known locally as the Sinon Homestead. It was first established by the Sinon family when they arrived by oxen in 1892. Nestled in the mountains, this stunningly beautiful 140 acre farm is now home to an organically certified sugar bush, pastures and fields, and sustainably maintained garden plots and woodlands, and a large variety of animals.
2018 – It was the year of renovations and planning. A new organic blueberry field and apple orchard were planted with the intention of becoming a ‘Pick Your Own’ plot. Susan’s blackberry bushes were all transplanted from the NY location, along with a patch of artisan garlic. The ‘newer’ barn was completely renovated to create a space for the spring lambs and calves. Elsewhere in the barn is a woodworking shop and an artist’s loft. A large coop was also constructed to house the chickens and other fowl.
In our aim to practice sustainable farming and be completely off the grid, we installed 2 large solar arrays which can supply 50% of the total power needed to run the farm.
2019 – We saw the arrival of all sorts of new animals. After much thought, we choose Finnsheep (yes, native to Finland) for their sweet docile nature, fiber and meat. Several rescue cows joined us, as well as our first newborn calf. Our Maremma guardian dog, Baron, needed a mate, so we imported Duchess all the way from Moonacre Farm In Arizona. Fowl breeds were increased to include guinea hens, pea fowl and a pair of ducks rescued from a frozen creek. On a different note, we were honored to be the location for a friend’s wedding. The backdrop of the mountains and the novelty of being on a working farm proved to be a huge hit with those who attended. We were left with thoughts of hosting other events in the future. This year also brought two new members to our AJHC family when Brian and his son, Logan, joined forces with Susan and Anthony.
2020 – What a year! It certainly strengthened our resolve to become completely self-sustaining. Using a sawmill he acquired in 2019, Brian set his sights on forest management and milled up enough blowdown lumber to build several structures out of cedar and spruce. First, a lean-to in the cow pasture went up, and then a farm stand was built as an extension of the newly repositioned and repaired greenhouse. We also acquired a small barn from our neighbor down the road. After dragging it into place and some renovations, we opened our Cow Cabin to comfortably house our small herd of 6 while giving them constant access to their field and corral. With the cows in their own cabin, we were able to use the entire Purple Barn for our Finnsheep, and the return on that project was a tripled increase in spring lambs. We also added 3 more lambs from Boondoggle Farm to our existing flock. In the fall we slaughtered our first steer. The butcher who processed our meat was impressed with the excellent quality and marbling. Now that we are confident that we can provide an outstanding product we’ve decided to offer beef for sale each fall season moving forward. The last bit of important news is that Duchess and Baron had their first litter of puppies. Without hesitation, we chose one to keep for our guarding pack. It is my pleasure to officially introduce Sir Puppster, The Magnificent.
2021 – Now with much anticipation, a new year has arrived. We look forward to seeing everyone who would like to visit AJHC when we open up the farmstand this spring. We will have our fresh maple syrup and various other new items. We are also vendors at the Craftsbury farmers Market on Saturdays.
AJ’s Happy Chick Farm is always open to rescuing and/or fostering an animal in need. In the future, we hope to support this effort by becoming a non-profit. Meanwhile, please feel free to contact us if you know of an animal in need of a loving, forever home. Our present family members who came to us ‘in need’ are:
Shelly is a male Sulcata tortoise whose natural environment is the African dessert. Sulcatas are one of the largest tortoise species in the world and can easily live to more than 100 years old. Shelly is a mere 20 years old (ish) and is the size of a turkey platter. He spends his time in a large fenced area outside, weather permitting. Shelly overwinters in a 10×10 foot enclosure in the warm basement of the house. Shelly is remarkably intelligent, and friendly to both animals and children.
Tequilla is a yellow crested cockatoo that came to me as a rescue after being abused in her previous home. The stress of her former life led her to pluck out her feathers. Most of what she pulled out were primary (non-replaceable) feathers, and even though she is now a very happy and stress free bird she will forever be naked. Commonly known as “The Naked Wonder” in my home, Tequilla has been with us for 8 years and I have begun to think about getting her a mate for company. If you know of another (female only- I am not looking to breed them) yellow crested cockatoo that needs a good home please do not hesitate to contact me.
Happy (now passed on)
Happy was a super friendly Jersey cow at a nearby dairy where the farmer had grown to like her sweet nature. After she miscarried and her milk dried up, the farmer suggested that Happy could retire to AJHC rather than be sent to slaughter. During a vet visit several months after her arrival we learned that she was pregnant! SURPRISE! Five months later, Happy gave birth to a beautiful calf we named Lemoo. Unfortunately, after repeated vet visits we discovered that Happy carried Johne’s disease and her pregnancy was simply more than her body could handle. She passed away 4 weeks after having calved despite all of our best efforts and the very best veterinary care. While we would have never bred Happy ourselves, we do feel most blessed to have such a wonderful calf as Lemoo. She will be raised here on the farm with hopes of one day becoming our milking cow.
Gilmore, another Jersey cow rescue, came to us a few months after Happy’s arrival in the early spring of 2019. She had been meant to be a dairy cow but an extreme foot injury had caused her to become lame, and every step was agony. After a while, walking became so painful she was unable to get around well enough to be able to work and was quickly loosing weight, and frankly, the will to live. Rather than go to slaughter we brought her in and began the long process of fixing her up. After many months and a variety of wraps and treatments and super clean fluffy shavings in her stall Gilmore’s claw (A claw or toe is half of the (cloven) hoof. Sheep, goats, deer, etc., have cloven hooves) was only moderately better. The fact was, it was so damaged that it was impossible to repair and was never going to heal. Even with medication she was in a great deal of pain and could only limp around slowly. One of the bittersweet sights was Happy patiently waiting for Gilmore so as to lead her to the better grass or the apple tree for grazing. By that fall she had gained all her weight back and was healthy enough that a team of vets concluded we could amputate the claw, leaving her with the other undamaged toe to compensate. It was a tricky surgery, albeit straight forward, and a very long recovery. Happily, by the following spring when released into the field, Gilmore ran and bucked and, for what must have been the first time in many years, she moved joyfully, seemingly pain free. During her recovery Gilmore kept a careful eye over Lemmo, licking and snuggling her between their stall fence. Now back in pasture she immediately became her surrogate mother and the pair are rarely seen apart from each other.
The rest of our 4 and 2 legged family
Our first and head ram, Argon is a beautiful brown badger and produces our nicest fleece that has drawn the attention of our shearer as well as spinners. He is
Our Sustainable Farm
AJ’s Happy Chick Farm is what is known as a ‘mixed farm’ (we try to do a little bit of everything) nestled in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Sustainable farming on our homestead requires that we try to provide for all of our needs and, wherever possible, to offer some of these products for sale. This is constantly evolving and more items and animals are being added all the time. Please check in with us frequently to see the latest updates or drop us a line if there is something you are looking for.
Our farm stand will be opening in August for 2021.