Mike Mallory of Good Life Farms started thinking about Thanksgiving well before November. He placed the order in spring, and two batches of baby turkeys (or poults) were delivered on his leased farmland in Lake Villa about mid-summer. Mike moves his mobile coops daily giving his turkeys access to fresh pasture and also lets them freely range within moveable fencing.
“That’s what I love most about turkeys.” Mike said. “They do so well on grass. Some farmers say they get as much as 30-40% of their diet just from being on grass.”
We walked the property, and Mike pointed out the previous areas his turkeys as well as chickens had been on. The grass had grown in lush and green where the birds once foraged, leaving behind plenty of nutrients through their manure. Mike manages this cycle closely to regenerate the land and grow healthy animals. He also raises pasture- and forest-raised pigs and other poultry.
In early 2020, Mike worked out a handshake agreement to farm roughly six acres behind a food bank that has since closed down. Prior to this, Mike and his family had little money saved and no land, so the dream of farming seemed distant to them. But a connection was made to the food bank through our own Nathan Aaberg, setting the stage for a generous lease opportunity and allowing Mike to start his farm business sooner than expected.
“We pay nothing for rent, and the land is located only seven minutes from our home, which is great,” says Mike. “But because the property is currently for sale, we also know it’s not a long-term situation.”
Mike and his fiancée both lost their jobs as the pandemic set in. The silver lining of this situation was that they were able to focus more on farming. In 2021 they began selling at their first farmer’s markets and are looking into wholesale opportunities at restaurants. The goal is to eventually scale up. Mike has his sights set on someday grazing cattle.
Farming has been a great way for Mike to meaningfully combine two very important things to him – farming and parenting. His fiancée recently began working full-time again, and Mike is grateful for the flexibility farming offers him to care for his two young children and even involve them on the farm. His four-year old daughter has already shown great interest in helping with baby chicks. He looks forward to his kids growing up on a farm. This motivates Mike to continue building up his farming skills and business to be ready, someday, for the right long-term farmland opportunity for his family.
This year, Mike raised a total of 34 turkeys on his leased land, which he’s been selling to family, friends, and local customers. Learn more about Good Life Farms here and inquire if there are any locally raised turkeys left for Thanksgiving!