Growing Freedom One Chicken At A Time: A Chat With Todd Morrison Of Dawson Gap Farm
There’s a farm in Hillsboro, Virginia on the very edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains where one family is dedicated to farming for freedom in a way that pleases God. Just down an abandoned state road called Dawson Gap, you’ll find the Morrisons selling high-quality, non-GMO food and livestock feed. We spoke with Todd Morrison recently regarding his farm, his family, and his community.
In the final installment of our two-part interview with Todd we discussed GMOs and the freedom everyone gets from farmers.
Hiland Naturals: So you feel that there’s a big demand for non-GMO feed where you are?
Todd: I do believe so. There’s various camps of people within the local agricultural community whether they be backyard farmers to producers. Then you get a variety in the mix of people who are convinced about the conventional model to people who are looking for non-GMO and natural. Even my friends in the city know about non-GMO; they’ve been educated on it.
It seems to me that if people want to grow their own food and go through all the trouble, all the work, all the time that’s involved, they want something different than what they can get at the supermarket and buy. To do all that and wind up with the same old chicken, it’s like, why bother?
Hiland Naturals: So why is non-GMO important to you personally?
Todd: We have health concerns. The science involved with genetically modified organisms is fundamentally flawed and there is all sorts of collateral damage done in the process of altering the genes. It’s not as scientific, and specific, and precise as they would make you think.
They use a “gene gun” that shoots these genes into other cells at hundreds of miles per hour and select the ones that happen to receive the forced gene. There’s just so many factors along the way that raise risk factors, and we don’t want to participate in that for our family. That’s a large part of it.
Another one is, fundamentally, I think it’s an affront to God and his created order. He created everything according to its kind, and genetic modification is crossing the species barrier is new to human history—it’s never been done before. We think that’s going contrary to God’s created order.
There’s other factors also, like seeing what it does to the agricultural community. I spoke with the farmer who planted GMO soybeans and he referred to Monsanto as “the mother ship”. There was nothing he could do without consulting them.
In the whole farming practice, which comes about from the use of GMOs, the farmer has to go to buy the seed (which he is not allowed to harvest and save for seed for next year) so he’s always having to go back to the corporation to buy the seeds and the pesticides and herbicides that go along with them. I think it makes farmers and our food system more dependent on—rather than independent from—multinational corporations instead of more local, family-based.
Hiland Naturals: Speaking of family-based, you practice “family-based freedom farming”. What does that mean?
Todd: Our family has six children, and we’re trying to accomplish something more than just growing food. That in itself is a good goal, but we’re trying to bring about freedom for our family personally. Freedom from the suburbs—we like the life out in the country and we’re happy to be out there and enjoy the freedom we find there. We’re also trying to bring freedom to our community in whatever way we can.
I’ve said in my online materials before, “we’re growing freedom one chicken at a time”. Even if it’s one chicken, we’re doing our small part in the movement, which we can all recognize going on in the nation.
We’re encouraging the local economy where we’re supporting our neighbors in business, and they support us. We can make feed available for other families to grow their own food and be less dependent. It’s a process of removing dependency and helping the community at large. We’re really happy to be a part of that.
We’re providing a choice for those families that live in the suburbs or can’t grow their own food. They have a choice other than what they can find at their supermarket.
We’re building relationships and we like talking to our customers, learning about the businesses that they are in, getting them into contact with other customers, and just networking. It’s building lines of communication in our community, which is lost when we go to the big box stores.
Hiland Naturals: It sounds like you do many things for your community! You’ve got a free poultry processing clinic?
Todd: We do! And it works out great for everybody. There’s one family that was buying chickens from us, and they are a large, homeschooling family. They have the space, ability, and plenty of hands to help grow their own food. Part of their learning process was to join us for one of our processing clinics.
I always say that processing chickens isn’t like rocket science, but it’s something people are kind of unsure about and uneasy about. So, one day with us and they get the experience and confidence to be able to do it themselves.
This family was a part of our processing clinic, and now they’re growing their own chickens. They process them as a family. They’re able to provide the best chicken meat for their family without having to pay the prices they would have to at a farm market.
I’ve seen clinics online where they charge $50-$100 per person, and I don’t do that. I invite people from the community to come because I’m happy to have the help—extra hands to process our chickens—and the people who come get the experience and learn the tricks to make things go better when it’s time to process their own chickens.
If people don’t get the training before hand, they just jump into it not knowing the things that will make it go more smoothly, and they have a bad experience. If they have a bad experience, they’re apt not to do it again, and that’s not what we want. We want more people growing chickens. I think the more people growing their own chickens, their own animals, their own meat for their families, the better off we all are as a community, as a nation.
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