The Chicken Lady: An Interview with Marianna Peeler

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Behind Marianna Peeler’s sweet smile lies a steely commitment to doing things right. She’s soft spoken, but her commitment to raising animals humanely is unshakeable. The birds at Peeler Farms in Floresville never see a cage. They spend their lives on pasture, eating green grass and forage under wide, blue Texas skies. Peeler supplements their feed with a non-GMO blend from Coyote Creek, and her chickens and eggs are some of the highest quality you’ll find anywhere. In addition to poultry products, our lucky customers enjoy Peeler grass fed beef–roasts, steaks, ground, and soup bones for nourishing broths. Working so hard to raise quality food can’t be easy, but Marianna makes it seem like a breeze. What makes this special lady tick? She stopped by Rain Lily Farm the other day for a visit–read on for insight and inspiration!

Why raise food for a living?

Because someone has to do it! I didn’t see too many people taking the steps to raise good, humanely treated and clean meats in my community. Plus, I am part of an agriculture family so starting my own farm was just an extension of a family with a long history of ranching and farming for me.

What is special about the food you grow?

Probably that’s it’s really raised, harvested, packed and delivered by me. Every aspect of the raising and caring for the animal is tended to by me, my children or my one farm employee, Melissa.

What inspires you?

The customers. The farm. I think seeing it all…the birds, the garden, the eggs and even the pests and predators. And, just getting my hands dirty is very inspirational!

Give us a little overview of a “day in the life” at Peeler Farms.

On a non-harvesting day, we start with checking to make sure all the animals made it through the night safely. Usually around 7am. Then we move on to feeding and cleaning and moving chicken coops. Eggs are gathered and then washed and packed up for customers. This takes up most of the morning! The afternoon is filled with garden work or fixing something! Something is always breaking or falling apart. We really don’t have an average day because every day holds some new challenge. These are just the things that have to be done before we tackle the next challenge.

What would we be surprised to hear is part of your “job description”?

Marketer/businesswoman. I never expected the marketing and business side of farming. Most people think a farmer has a nice quiet day with animals and gardens and goes home at the end of the day to their farmhouse! I spend most evenings and early morning on a computer sending invoices or updating social media sites. I don’t get to spend as much time actually farming as I’d prefer!

What do you feel is the biggest obstacle faced today by folks who want to raise food sustainably for a living?

Enough hours in a day! I’m kidding… Probably, Finances and land. I think most farmers struggle to find good, productive land that is big enough, affordable and close enough to an urban area to sell their products. It’s usually very expensive to buy or lease.

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What is a farmer’s role in our society?

Definitely producing food. That should be most farmers main role and goal. To provide good, clean products to their community and beyond it, if possible.

Why should we buy local food?

To feed a farmer! And really, I am not kidding. Most of the local farmers have very small farms that they spend countless hours trying to make successful. We depend on our community to support us so we can thrive and expand. It’s a great way to support the community you live in AND eat healthy. And hands down, the taste and quality of the product is unmatched. If you think about it…it was probably in the ground or eating grass a very short time before you bought it.

What is the best news in food you’ve heard recently?

I am not sure it’s really news but I have been encouraged to see new people starting farms recently. It’s always good to have more small farms.

What do you wish more people knew about growing food?

The commitment it takes and how personal it is. It’s not a quick turn around on plants or animals. You have to really stick with the long term plans you made for yourself even when it all looks like it’s about to fail or was eaten by a coyote. You don’t get to buy a laying hen and then go to a market and sell eggs that week. It takes 6 months before they lay an egg. The same for a garden or grassfed cow. It’s a commitment. It’s also very personal. The farm and the animals are part of you. The product that is delivered each week is also part of you! That makes it very personal and hopefully, a source of great pride for each farmer. And a should be a source of pride for the consumer, as well.

What is one thing everyone can do (or a few simple things) to create a better, stronger food system?

Support a local farm. Go to farmers markets. Take a friend.

What are you cooking this week?

Chicken and beef. We have chicken and beef every day of the week! But Brussel sprouts and lots of spaghetti squash and butternut squash.

Favorite breakfast: Hard boiled eggs (Peeler Farms, of course) with a side of cooked quinoa that has almond milk and honey in it. It’s kinda like oatmeal but better.

Favorite comfort food: Chicken fried steak with lots of gravy

Favorite book about food: Does The Meat Buyer’s Guide to butchering meat count? I hope so.

Favorite cookbook: All my old Southern Living cookbooks my grandmother gave me. The ones they put out at the end of each year with all the recipes from the magazine for the past year.

Favorite in-season veggie: Spaghetti squash

Favorite food indulgence: Good, warm, old fashioned chocolate chip cookies. Or anything fried!

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