West Fork Farmstead: Your friendly neighborhood egg delivery

By TJ Rhodes
Posted 11/21/23


At West Fork Farmstead in West Chester, the Wilson family raises chickens for both eggs and meat, but how they do that is a chief concern.

“For me, at the forefront of our …

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West Fork Farmstead: Your friendly neighborhood egg delivery



At West Fork Farmstead in West Chester, the Wilson family raises chickens for both eggs and meat, but how they do that is a chief concern.

“For me, at the forefront of our minds, we're trying to figure out how to raise stuff to what we think is good for the environment, what we think is good for the quality of the food, and what we think is [best] for the animal to have the best life that they can,” Natasha Wilson said.

The result of that effort and care the Wilsons put into their farmstead practices results in meaningful experiences for both themselves and their customers, with whom they’ve been able to establish personal connections.

“It feels very tangible. You're creating this real thing that people need and then you're handing it to the people and after eating it, they're telling you ‘I made soup for my granddaughter’ [for example],” Wilson said.

West Fork Farmstead has a lot to offer, but one main attraction for customers is their eggs, which are produced by pastured hens year-round.

The farmstead hosts nearly 300 hens to get the job done. The Wilson family – Natasha, along with sister Claire and parents Brian and Nancy -- collects and washes eggs as they’re laid, three times a day, and delivers them to customers within the surrounding area.

Buyers outside of the Washington-Kalona-Iowa City area can order eggs online at www.westforkfarmstead.com and pick up their purchase.

“[We call them] egg subscribers,” Wilson said. “Every other week, throughout the whole year, they're signed up to get two dozen eggs, or three dozen eggs or whatever. That's kind of how we really started and that has been a big part of what we do.”

The eggs produced here might also find themselves in a food pantry or paired with vegetables in CSA boxes thanks to a partnership between West Fork and local vegetable growers.

One place these eggs will not end up is a grocery store.

There are challenges to keeping pastured hens; some trial and error has been required to determine where the chickens can safely roam. Currently, they’re within eyeshot of the farmstead home and out in the open, away from the woods which pose the gravest dangers.

The fence housing the chickens is electrified to further protect the birds from outside threats. Within their pasture, the hens have sheds where they instinctually want to sleep at night. Once the hens gather into the sheds, someone closes the door for them, keeping them safe from nighttime owls and hawks.

During the fast-approaching winter, the chickens still like to be outside most of the time. Still, the Wilsons put their water in the sheds to keep it from freezing in the dead of winter.

Winter poses a challenge for the farm. It prevents them from raising broiler chickens – chickens raised for meat – year-round.

The farm raises pullets up to three weeks old, moving them to pasture until they’re roughly 9-10 weeks old. Then, the birds are sent to a USDA-approved small processor where they are prepared for consumption.

This process is done in cycles but concludes close to winter. Wilson would like to have chicken meat available for sale all year, but still has a few logistical issues to work out to keep meat in stock until spring.

Chicken feet are one of the more unusual products the farmstead offers for sale. Wilson uses them to make a nutritious bone broth, as there is much collagen in the feet, but Latino and Chinese customers use them in other ways.

“We reach people from all kinds of communities that know more about cooking than I do,” Wilson said. “I'm curious how to experiment with it.”

The farm also offers duck eggs, although the demand for them is not as high, so the farm caters to just eight ducks currently. The duck eggs provide a bigger yolk with more protein, and they are desirable for gluten-free baking as the extra fat adds moisture to drier flours.

Working with chickens has allowed Wilson to see their different personalities emerge. She notes the birds are extremely inquisitive. She recalls one who would fly out of the pen each morning so it could relax with the dogs all day, returning at night for the safety of the shed.

Stories like this help confirm the birds are living a fulfilling life on their personal pasture at West Fork Farmstead, helping the Wilsons make a local impact.

“The chance to raise the food I love eating and feel really good about getting [it] to other people, it's more meaningful than I could have possibly imagined,” Wilson said.

“I hope that we can always make it work where we can just be little like this, because those relationships, being part of people's lives, [them] talking about and eating it and having what they want is what makes it enjoyable for me.”

To purchase eggs, chicken, and other products from West Fork Farmstead, visit them online at westforkfarmstead.com or call 319-325-5097.