Stilmour farm is home to over 60 chickens, four pigs, three goats, three honeybee hives, three composting worm bins, five cats and dogs. And there’s stil-mour.
“We’re all just one big happy family,” said Susan Mead, a Hood River local and a self-proclaimed “farmette” owner.
Mead’s great-grandfather owned a horse farm in Maine, where she developed her love of farming. Over the next 20 years, she gained experience training horses, managing barns, and teaching riding lessons. Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, she dreamed of having a farm of her own.
Mead worked as a social worker in Child Protective Services for six years. While that was rewarding work, the farm life gives a relaxing contrast.
“Taking care of the animals was like reality. The animals have no pretense, they just are who they are. After listening to people’s stories all day long here was just a simple existence,” said Mead.
Mead moved from New York to Hood River to be closer to her son who was attending the University of Oregon. Shortly after, Stilmour farm was born. It began with four young rescue pigs from Peace Pigs Sanctuary in Stanwood, Wash.: Joy, Mrs. Bloss, Waylon, and (Pink) Floyd. Mead clarified she keeps them all as pets, and finds joy in their presence at the farm.
“Nobody dies here by my hand. It’s like a retirement home.”
Once the size of a jack-russell terrier, Waylon, a pink pig, is now over 800 pounds and happily living out his life with the two smaller pigs, and two recent additions.
OHSU finished conducting a study on diabetes, and the two Yucatan pigs they tested on needed a new home. When Denita and Lupe arrived at Stilmour Farm, they had never seen the sun or the sky, nor ran about, or seen another animal besides themselves.
“It took about three weeks for them to figure out they were animals and not people,” said Mead. “They actually came here knowing how to paint. The caregivers at OHSU wanted to provide them with mental stimulation.”
Mead was originally concerned about warmth in the winter because the animals needed to sleep together in a pile with the big pigs. It didn’t take long for them to fit right in and show their true colors.
“Denita is obnoxious and pushy and doesn’t respect your personal space at all. It’s all about what she wants and she wants it now. Lupe is much more … socially evolved,” said Mead. Despite their unique and strong personalities, all of the animals live in the same field and interact with each other. Pictured are two chickens standing on Joy, one of the four original pigs.
“They all get along, so why can’t we?” asked Mead.
Visitors to the farm have enjoyed the view from her house and partaken in “farm TV,” as Mead calls it.
“I have this really large deck on the back of my house which overlooks the Hood River Valley and where all the animals live. We sit on the deck and we eat and drink and watch the animals: We call it farm TV. Sometimes we throw food out to the pigs and the chickens from my deck. The shy ones hang back so you have to have a good aim to get them. And you try not to knock them unconscious with the food.”
In addition to the pigs, the farm has a trio of goats: Petunia, Grapefruit, and their mother Lucille, that keep the company of over 60 chickens. Mead’s philosophy is that by letting the chickens be free range where they can run, peck for grubs and seeds, and be outside, gives them the healthiest life possible.
“Pasture-based management ensures they have access to natural foods and nutrients they would not necessarily receive in pellet feed alone,” said Mead.
This is one reason that Mead decided to become Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW: To appeal to customers who are “looking for delicious, pasture-raised eggs that come from happy and healthy hens.”
“I wanted credit for the fact that I give my animals a really good life,” said Mead. Her passion and dedication to her animals is well represented in this certification, as her animals are raised according to the highest environmental and welfare standards.
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pasture-raised chicken eggs from Stilmour farm are available seasonally at the local Hood River Farmers Market. The farm also offers delivery service for local customers. For more information, contact Mead at [email protected]
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