By Gabriela Chrysostomou, Farm Fellow
As harvest day for the chickens drew closer, I found myself standing outside their coop and observing them. After they got used to the intruder in their space, they soon resumed their plucking and scratching of the dirt, softy cooing to each other. At one point during my observation, I noticed that their door had been knocked closed by the strong winds that happen frequently on the mountain. I went around to their coop, unplugged the electric fence, and went to secure the door open. I experimented with my own soft cooing to see if they would respond and one chicken approached me, one orange eye trained on me. All at once, she stood in front of the open door, called to the rest of the flock and soon chickens were filtering back inside, some pushing their way through eagerly.
Not only was I impressed by their communication, something I hadn’t noticed before, but was honored to be a part of their daily lives. So when it came time to end their lives for the sake of meat harvest, I struggled with the morality of killing a being that I had gotten attached to. This is the reality that most farmers have to grapple with and one that I never had to, or even thought about, growing up in New York City. The experience all at once brought up feelings of remorse, appreciation, and guilt that I had taken advantage of the accessibility of chicken.
I was the second person to harvest a chicken, and even after being demoed and slowly walking through the process with Jason, of Tangly Wood Farms, the gravity of doing it myself still feels forever life changing and disturbing all at once. Disruption of normalcy is commonplace here at AMI. Coming from such a different environment and learning how to cook seasonally, the inner workings of farm life, and both the beauty and hardships of communal living has once again reminded me of the dreaded comfort zone and its companion, ignorance. I am grateful that I am no longer ignorant of the immense emotional and mental strength it requires to harvest a chicken you have fed and cared for.