So what exactly does a retired Microsoft computer programmer do with all her spare time? Why she farms, of course. From her own personal quest for better health and eating habits, Joyce Behrendt, owner and founder of Ode to Joy Farms, has discovered this is her passion. And with this passion has grown an incredible local business that not only benefits her but neighboring communities as well.
Ode to Joy Farms is situated on 10 beautiful acres at 23140 SE 464th Street in Enumclaw. The setting is peacefully blissful and one can only imagine the serenity that retirement can bring at a place such as this. However, behind the scenic beauty is a hard working woman whose goal is to grow sustainable vegetables, practice holistic biological farming and to educate others about the importance of the natural aspects of this type of farming.
Driven by an inner quest to become a healthier individual, Joyce has discovered the importance of nutrients and how pasture raising animals is the ultimate in both health and well being--not only for her and her customers but for the environment as well. Joyce attributes much of her early farming education to Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms and is constantly on a learning path which is pretty much every hour of every day on the farm.
One of her methods includes that of rotational grazing where cows graze in the field and eventually chickens naturally follow their paths and peck and scratch at the cow patties. Okay, so they don’t just scratch and peck…they eat the fly larvae out of the manure-- there is no pretty way to say it. The larvae provides food for the chickens and when eliminated, cleanses the manure in a way so it is a purer version that gets rotated back into the ground.
Once the cows have grazed their way through one section of field, they are moved to the next field and so on and so on. This creates a natural process of farming as they mow and fertilize the land themselves. Hence, there is little use for a tractor, less gas usage and zero fuel from the fumes of a tractor.
And there is one more important fact for the farmer: there is more time to focus on other things around the farm—score!
Another method Joyce uses on the farm is that of vermicomposting which is a process of using worms called Red Wigglers to turn organic waste such as paper, food scraps, coffee grounds and egg shells into that of vermicompost or simply put, worm waste. These worms thrive in dark places and when no one is looking, magically create nutritious castings which can then be sold as natural fertilizer.
Dare I say that it’s almost as if Joyce has opened up a whole new can of worms for the farming community?
And now for the animals. Joyce currently has 130 laying hens and five roosters. They roam freely around and feed on grass and clover. Such eating habits results in eggs that are six times richer in Vitamin D compared to chickens that are conventionally or factory raised and also produce a yolk that is rich and orange in color. On the average day, Joyce will harvest at least six dozen eggs from her hens.
You may be wondering what someone could possibly do with all those eggs and that is why Joyce obtained her egg handlers' license through the WSDA. She has a designated egg cleaning station where she can clean and package her eggs to sell to the public which is otherwise known as “pick-up at the farm.” Also at the beginning of her road sits a little wagon with a cooler marked “Eggs.” This egg wagon is based off an honor system and passerbys put money in and take their prized eggs to go.
Joyce not only sells chicken eggs but duck eggs as well which are richer in flavor and quite a bit bigger than an average chicken egg. She sells her chicken eggs for $6 per dozen and the duck eggs for $7 a dozen. Now don’t be “shell” shocked at these prices because remember, these eggs are a by-product of pure and natural pastured poultry and as I can attest—are amazingly flavorful.
Also to be found at the farm are broilers that are raised for about 12 weeks and ready to eat. Like her egg handler’s license, Joyce has also obtained her poultry processing license which enables her to sell the broilers at the farm. These delightful little treats are available for around $5.50 per pound. When the season is right, there is also farm fresh vegetables of various types available.
Joyce is looking forward to offering grass fed beef and perhaps some wool from her prized Black Welsh Sheep in the future. There are many other possibilities and plans as well but those will remain secret… for now. One hint; however, is the possibility of a “Farm to Table” theme and I shall say no more other than I am excited about this!
One of Joyce’s favorite parts of farming is the fact she is able to improve and better her health and to explore and appreciate good natural food. To be able to get out in the fresh air and the sunshine is an added bonus along with the ability to improve the soil of her land and not deplete it of its natural goodness.
Why Enumclaw? Joyce says she absolutely loves the wonderful infrastructure of Enumclaw from farming, live-stocking, abundance of veterinary facilities and above all, its natural resources. One of the biggest perks for a farming fanatic like Joyce is that there is 20,000 acres of preserved farm land alone in Enumclaw.
Now that’s a lot of worms!