This is a BIG deal! Firefly Farms is one of only 33 farms profiled on the Humane Certified website and we are the second farm in Connecticut to receive this honor (both with our certification and profile). We are FEATURED on their Certified Humane homepage, have our own official press release, and have our Firefly Farms profile on their website. How cool is that??!?!?
So you might be asking yourself, what is is Certified Humane and why do we make such a big deal about it?
The Certified Humane Mission
Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) is the leading non-profit certification organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals in food production from birth through slaughter.
The goal of the program is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices.
When you see the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label on a product you can be assured that the food products have come from facilities that meet precise, objective standards for farm animal treatment.
We felt in 2013 that we were at a stage where we could apply for our certification as we met almost all the requirements for Certified Humane and could easily change to meet the remaining few. We had already made it our mission that our animals were going to live the healthiest and happiest lives we could provide based on our own actions so it was just a natural next step to take. After a stringent application process, we had a farm inspection which covered every thing… we are talking from food the animals eat, to where they sleep and live, from birth all the way to death. No detail was overlooked. In April of 2014, we became officially Certified Humane and began selling our products with their label. Now in 2015, our farm is all over their website.
Now for why we make a big deal about being Certified Humane. We make a big deal about this because it is validation that we are doing right by our animals. They are able to fully appreciate all the seasons while being fed and protected from predators in large runs. They experience the joy of ear waggles, back scratches, and special treats. The food they eat is specially milled for them so that it does not include any of the fillers found in even the very best feed. Their life expectancy is measured in years rather than months. When it comes time for them to walk the Green Mile, there is someone with them every step of the way. They are given extra treats, they stay in the transport until it is time, and some one from the farm walks in with them to make sure that they are not afraid and they are respected until the end. Afterwards, their human caregivers grieve. We know we are raising these animals to save them and give them renewed purpose as specialty food, but this does not mean that their deaths get any easier for any of us. It never will either.
Pisa joining in here. Mom says I can get on my soap box for a little bit…
There have been those who have stated that “humane” and “slaughter” should never be linked together. We at Firefly Farms completely respect those who choose to be vegetarian and vegan, but most of the population continues in their omnivore habits. This means that animals are always going to be consumed. However, there is a choice to be made. People can continue to eat meat and eggs from animals in deplorable conditions as are frequently found in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) OR they can come to farms like Firefly where they can meet the animals, see their lifestyle, and walk away knowing that these animals are not suffering. In fact, they are getting to do exactly what they are meant to do which is be pigs, chickens, and cattle.
My Mom always pets me extra after she has watched one of the Mercy for Animal videos. She has informed me that she can barely watch a minute of any one of them before she wants to throw up since she is crying too hard and because what she is seeing is just too awful for words. She comes to the farm to remind herself that we are living good lives where the animals are not treated as just ambulatory bacon/beef/wings, but as individuals with unique personalities and quirks.
I, for one, am happy. I share a run with two of my siblings and a number of other boys. We are able to root and wallow to our hearts contentment. When we are hungry, there is food. When we are thirsty, there is water. We feel the summer sun on our backs and get to curl up in huge pig piles at the end of the day. Life is good. I only wish that what I consider “normal” was true of all other farm animals.
My last appeal… so even if you choose not to eat meat, please direct your friends who do to support places like Firefly Farms. The continued existence of Certified Humane farms ensures that the word can be spread to more farms, consumers, and retailers who may be looking for alternatives to the anonymous meat and eggs found at the grocery store.
For Firefly Farms, it means that we can continue to save rare heritage breeds nearly on the brink of extinction. There are less than 1,000 Mulefoots in the world which makes me and all the other Mulies at the farm incredibly special. Same goes for the Randall Linebacks cattle, Dorkings chickens, and Guinea Hogs. So not only is Firefly Farms Certified Humane, but it is one of the only farms to specialize solely in heritage breeds. That makes us pretty unique in the world.
Finally, it also means that anyone who purchases products from Firefly Farms can feel pretty good about their choices. They are supporting a small family owned farm in a traditional farming town. They are helping in the revival and survival of heritage breeds. AND they can rest assured that they are buying a product that fits the very stringent and exact requirements of the Humane Farm Animal Care Humane certification procedure. We think this a win-win situation for all parties!
We hope that you will head over to the Certified Humane website to check out our new profile as well as those of other farms, but if you only have a moment to read on….
Founded by the Tillman-Brown Family in June of 2011, Firefly Farms is a 135-acre farm in North Stonington, Connecticut. The family is committed to raising heritage chickens, pigs and cattle in a natural and humane environment.
Firefly Farms has grown from an original herd of five piglets to a diverse number of hogs – Mulefoots, a Red Wattle, Guinea Hogs, and Tri-Heritage. They have a growing herd of Randall Lineback cattle and a flock of Dorking chickens. Each of their breeds is either critically endangered or threatened according to The Livestock Conservancy. None of their breeds numbers more than 1,000 in the world.
“It may seem to be a conflict that we raise these rare animals for meat, but the reason that they’re endangered is that they lost popularity in favor of other breeds when factory farming became prevalent,” said Allena Tillman-Brown. “To bring them back from endangered, we need to give them renewed purpose and raise them for their original intent, food. This makes every animal we raise precious and critical to the overall survival of the breed.”
Firefly Farm animals are all pasture or forest raised. In addition to their supplemented diets, they are allowed to forage for food and are kept in environments natural to their species.
“Our pigs live in large groups in the woods, foraging, sleeping in piles, and enjoying the very essence of being a pig,” said Allena. “Our piglets stay with their mothers until they are naturally weaned, as do our calves. Our cows have a variety of pastures to suit their needs and the chickens have chicken tractors (movable chicken coops without floors) that are moved twice daily to give them access to fresh grass. Except for protective fences, our animals get to live as their ancestors did.”
Firefly Farms also uses rotational grazing, which keeps the animals moving so no one area is negatively impacted by their presence and the animals always benefit from having fresh grazing land to explore.
“A certified forester who specializes in woodland restoration showed us where to create new pasture and how to improve the overall health of the existing forest,” said Allena. “Our pigs have done a wonderful job removing scrub brush and invasive species so native flora and fauna can return. They love to be turned out on new pasture with all the joys of finding new areas to root and wallow.”
Firefly Farms first learned about Certified Humane® from Craig Floyd of Footstep Farm, the first Certified Humane® farm in Connecticut. Dugan Tillman-Brown, Firefly’s farm manager, realized he had already been naturally implementing many of Certified Humane® standards to provide the farm’s animals a stress-free environment.
“It seemed like a natural next step to become Certified Humane®,” said Dugan. “Humane Farm Animal Care’s goals and our goals are one and the same.”
As of January 2015, all four family members work for Firefly Farms in various capacities. Van Brown handles the bookkeeping and correspondences, Beth Tillman works with Dugan Tillman-Brown on Firefly Farms; and Allena Tillman-Brown handles marketing and events.
All of them, however, have been boar wranglers, mother hens to various babies, and educators for people interested in learning about how to operate a family farm that keeps the health and well-being of the animals as their number one priority.
“Just because these animals are raised for food, doesn’t mean we do not love them, care for them, and play with them,” said Allena. “We are with them at birth and walk alongside them to the end. Our mission is to make sure each animal has quality of life here.”
To learn more, visit www.fireflyfarmsllc.com.