Know your farmer: Food Freedom Farm

Interview with quail egg farmer, Josh Fischer of Food Freedom Farm, Grass Valley

Fresh quail eggs. Photo from Food Freedom Farms.

When did you get started farming?
About 5 years ago I was on my first date with a girl that I dated for a few years. We went out to this Thai food place, and they had fried quail on the menu. At the time I had just started getting into homesteading and raising my own food. I have an adventurous palate, so I ordered the fried quail, and when the bird got there it was just delicious. It was just these tiny little things, and I thought, wow I could probably raise these really easily, because I was already raising rabbits. It was serendipitous: the next day I got an email from the local Food Coalition about a woman in Newcastle who was raising quail and rabbits, and doing a seminar on both of those things. I when to it and came home with a few quail. Here we are, about 5 years later, and at the moment I have about 200 birds.

Other than quail eggs, what else do you grow?
For the last four years, up until last year, we were a very small nano-CSA. I think we had about 10 members at one point, and we were selling food up at the North Starhouse at the Saturday Farmers Market. We grow a little bit of everything. You name the vegetable, and we at least tried to grow it. Last year I lost my partners, and I decided doing it by myself I would grow whatever food I could for me, and instead of doing the farmer’s market every weekend, I donated all the extra to Interfaith Food Ministries. I make the same amount of money every weekend as I did doing the farmers market by selling quail eggs here at BriarPatch and at a few restaurants. It’s a lot less work, and it freed me up to have the same size garden and donate as much food to the hungry people in town as I could. Interfaith Food Ministries kept me alive for three years before I knew how to grow anything, so I really enjoy giving them the food.

Peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant growing in the greenhouse. Photo from Food Freedom Farms.

What is the best part about farming?
The best part is hatching the baby birds. They are so cute and adorable. Quail won’t sit on their eggs; they won’t brood in captivity. The only way they will hatch is if I put them in the incubator. There is this neat moment that happens when they hatch. In the wild, mom takes them to water, mom shows them what to eat. Here, none of that is happening, so they kind of have to come online by themselves. At a certain point you have to move them from the incubator to the brooder, and there is water and food there. Nobody tells them to drink, or teaches them to eat, so eventually they just walk over and something compels them to drink the water, and they are like, “Oh that’s good!” and then they come online.

What do you think has helped you the most?
The local food scene here. It’s inspirational and motivational, so many good connections. Half of the stuff that I have done has been via the local Food Coalition that got me started on quail farming.
When I was running the farm last year, what I learned about homesteading, is that you are working very hard because you are trying to produce a little of everything, because you are trying to produce as much of your own stuff as you can. When it’s just one or two people, that’s ridiculous. However, when you go to the farmer’s market, and you are vending, you can connect with other farmers. I don’t grow beef, but this guy over here does, and I can trade my broccoli for his beef. It’s kind of like I grew some beef in the form of broccoli. And when you start making those connections with the local community and farmers, you realize you don’t have to work as hard… being such a busy homesteader running around with your bees and your mushrooms and your quail or whatever. I can focus on the two or three things I really like a lot and do those well. You can always find someone who does things you just don’t have the time for.

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