What you eat is what you are.
“I’ve long been concerned about the harmful effects that hormones used in food production can have on our bodies,” reflected Chuckie Hessong.
“After my third child, a girl, was born, I studied more about the problems hormones can cause, and even more so in women than men,” she continued. “So I decided to do something about it in my own small way.”
These concerns, and an apparent-inborn-fondness for raising their own food with a family in the country, were the beginning of Laughing Rooster Farms at Pittsburg in Crawford County.
Hessong started milking a cow and selling hormone-free milk from her 10-acre farm six years ago.
“There was such a demand for the safe, high-quality, uniquely-flavored milk, that we continued to expand, and now also market eggs, poultry, pork and beef, all produced naturally, without hormones to stimulate production,” she clarified.
“My mom (Ruth Green) always had milk goats, so I grew up on that,” Hessong noted. “We raised our own chickens, rabbits and a garden. Our food was always better than what we bought at the store.”
Still, Hessong preferred milk from cows, which have higher production, too. “It takes a lot of milk for three children, and also sell some for extra income, so I got a cow to milk,” Hessong said.
“People like that our milk is produced naturally. The richer flavor is different than what’s available at stores,” emphasized Hessong.
Regulations only allow “fresh milk” to be sold on the farm where it is produced. “We have the honor system, so customers can come get milk whenever they need it,” Hessong said. “They just pick up a filled-bottle, leave an empty one with payment, and there’s never been a problem.”
Because “there is a difference,” Hessong contended, “Our milk costs more than store-bought milk, too.”
Sadly, the cow Hessong had been milking most recently died following calving. “I don’t have milk to sell now, but I have a heifer to freshen soon,” she said.
There’s still no shortage of work. “I buy 100 chicks, raise them in the garage, and then grow them on pasture,” related Hessong. “We have portable coops made out of cattle panels.
“They’re moved twice daily for new grass and insects, and to fertilize the land,” she continued.
The double-breasted Cornish meat birds weigh about four pounds just eight weeks after hatching, and are ready for processing.
“We have them processed at Garnett, and sell the whole frozen birds by the pound.” Hessong related.
Layers graze the pastures, too, dropping eggs in a portable hen house, or sometimes right on the prairie. “I like colored eggs, so I have Rhode Island Reds, Americana and other breeds that lay colored eggs,” Hessong commented.
While one might wonder how the name Laughing Rooster Farm came about, Hessong explained, “My dad passed away about the time I was starting this. He was a jovial man, and I could just imagine him laughing at what I was doing with these chickens.”
Feeder pigs are purchased and grown to market size in pens on the farm. “We don’t let them out, but they’re raised naturally, too, on the dirt with mud holes,” she said.
Bucket calves are grown to butcher weight grazing alongside the poultry.
“We feed grain to all of our livestock, too,” emphasized Hessong, who’s committed to “responsibly raising” everything on the farm.
Processing of hogs and cattle is done at a couple of nearby government-inspected plants and merchandized frozen in consumer-convenient packages.
“I have sold a lot at farmer’s markets, but that’s time consuming, so I have a store in Pittsburg that sells my products now, which works well,” Hessong said.
While there is demand for the “hormone-free, higher-quality, different-flavored, higher-costing” products from Laughing Rooster Farms, Hessong admitted, “Our products don’t fit everybody, but a lot of it is education. I was a high school family-consumer teacher, so I like teaching others why our products are worth more.”
Hessong sometimes has a surplus of the perishable products. “I make butter and cheese, for home use, and sometimes I conduct cheese making classes,” she related. “If we still have extra milk, it makes excellent poultry and hog feed, while enhancing flavor of the meat.”
Her children, Grant, 12; Trenton, nine; and Sydney, seven, all have chores, including helping in the garden for home-use.
“We make fun out of our lifestyle, and often joke about how boring it must be for other families to always be watching television inside,” Hessong grinned.
While she has a job off the farm now, Hessong sees continued increasing-demand for Laughing Rooster Farm products.
“I love the lifestyle for my family, while helping others with their nutrition. We believe in the importance of providing healthy, flavorful products for our family and yours,” Hessong summarized.