Customers arrive to pick up their Community Supported Agriculture shares as Melanie Brunty works quickly behind a small table at the end of a long gravel driveway, filling plastic bags with cartons of eggs and whole chickens processed from her farm the day before.
Nearby, just on the other side of a small fence, a couple cows lay hidden in the grass while a dozen rust-colored short-haired ewes — just a small portion of the livestock owned by the Brunty family — are cuddled up snug beside a small mountain of logs.
“I think the biggest benefit of this location is the market is in such a well-populated community,” says Melanie, who runs the 17-acre farm alongside her husband, Jeff.
Jeff’s passion for farming developed at 13-years-old after a friend made him breakfast with fresh eggs from a chicken coop. Coupled with Melanie’s marketing background, the two saw the farm as a business and moved onto the property in 2009 with dreams of having pasture-raised chickens.
Very quickly, they acquired pigs, sheep and cattle, and picked up on rotational grazing methods in which the feeding patterns of each animal play off one another. As cows move freely through the field, chewing down the grass to smaller lengths, the sheep and chickens follow.
“It’s [part of] this whole circle of creating the pasture health,” says Melanie.
With an abundance of livestock, they created a meat and egg CSA program and opened a small farm grocery where customers can purchase products while the couple work on the farm. They established relationships with Mustard Seed Market & Cafe and Earth Fare to sell their products. But as demand for livestock increased, the Bruntys needed to grow their operation. When they maxed out their usable acreage in the national park, the couple looked to expand elsewhere.
“We love being in the park, and we love having this lease,” says Melanie, “but we also like the idea of making investments to a property that is ours forever.”
Today, much of the work happens on a 40-acre farm in Ashland. There, Jeff spends most of his day with two other farmhands seven days a week using the same rotational grazing methods they learned on their national park farm. Every day, 14 pens that hold more than 1,000 chickens are rotated in the fields to control the grazing process.
“Last week, we worked 100 hours,” says Melanie. “We don’t have pensions, and we don’t have retirement plans. These are our full-time jobs.” 2470 Martin Road, Bath Township, bruntyfarms.com