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Whiffletree Farm

((Banner: Farming During the Pandemic))
((Reporter/Camera: Philip Alexiou, Martin Secrest))
((Producer: Martin Secrest))
((Map: Warrenton, Virginia))
((Main character: 1 male))
((NATS: Farm))
((Popup Banner:
Whiffletree Farm is a non-genetically modified sustainable poultry
and livestock farm.
Young chickens are being moved to pasture.))
((NATS: Farm))
((Jesse Straight, Owner, Whiffletree Farm))
So, you want to grab around their wings and like I'll grab two
together. I'll grab them around their wings here and hold them
together. Yeah, that way they feel safe.
((NATS: Barn))
((Jesse Straight, Owner, Whiffletree Farm))
If you pack it too tight, especially like in the summer when it's hot
and the crates are all stacked on top of each other and there's a lot
of body heat, you know, then it's dangerous.
((NATS: Farm))
((Jesse Straight, Owner, Whiffletree Farm))
We’re going to go out to the pasture. You can see we’re going to
go through that tree line and that's where the empty chicken
shelters are. And that's where these chicks are going to on
((NATS: Tractor))
Jesse Straight: Oh, I put the count on the sheet, yep, yep.))
((Jesse Straight, Owner, Whiffletree Farm))
A big distinction for us is what you see on the ground here. This is
fresh grass, fresh air, sunlight, etc. So, we have to kind of ‘baby’
them in the brooder barn until they get hardy enough at about
three or four weeks to bring them out to pasture. At this point, they
now have their mature feathers. So, you can kind of see like, you
can see they still have some of their baby feathers here. So, these
like downy little soft feathers on their neck, you know, that's their
baby feathers. That's what they were totally covered with when
they are first the little peep, you know. But then, these white
mature feathers, that's what actually insulates and keeps them
warm and they can regulate their body temperature themselves as
opposed to what in nature their mother would do that for them.
((NATS: Crates))
((Jesse Straight, Owner, Wiffletree Farm))
Of course, our customers love what we do, particularly, you know,
that the animals are actually on fresh pasture, which is a real
game changer. Obviously, right now everyone's thinking about
the coronavirus and that's sort of our moment right now. I think
people are increasingly interested in thinking about their food as a
source of health.
((NATS: Field))
Jesse Straight, on phone:
Whiffletree Farm, this is Jesse. Yeah. Here's the deal. I just put
something on our website to offer like for elderly and
immunosuppressed people to do something like a curbside. If,
you know, if you fall in that category like, yeah.))
((Jesse Straight, Owner, Whiffletree Farm))
About half of our business before corona(virus) was with
restaurants and half was retail directly to customers. Restaurant
business? Totally toast (stopped), you know, nothing there, pretty
much. There's going to be a real lag time before the restaurant
business can recuperate. You know, I just got off the phone with a
mother of three who's got a cough and has asthma. She's really
worried and, you know, and people when they see like their food
supply getting low at home and they've seen or heard about the
mayhem at the grocery store and they're worried about the germs
and touching stuff. I do whatever I can to calm people down, just
to be like, ‘Hey, we have food, three people at a time in the farm
store, we're taking these measures.’ (I’m) just trying to assure
people of all the things that might be on their mind especially and
try and comfort them with the ways that we can with what we have
and what we're doing.
((NATS: Rooster, chicken pen))
((NATS: Store, Jesse Straight:
Let’s do curbside after chicks and then let’s do…..power’s ongoing
from there, yeah.))
((Jesse Straight, Owner, Whiffletree Farm))
You know, obviously, coronavirus as an international story has
been developing for a while. It's exposing how vulnerable we are.
People are so dependent on this industrial food system and it has
such a vulnerable supply chain and it's run to such tight margins.
The inventory is tight and the supply chain is long and that means
there's not a lot of grace for runs on the system like this.
The following was recorded before Virginia imposed limits on
outside movement and mandated safe distancing due to COVID-