Sustainability is a buzzword that has floated around the farm and food industry for a long time. But to those who truly care, sustainability has become more than just a buzzword — it’s become a mainstay, a central theme in everything we do. Sustainability has become a way of life, and a way to preserve the beauty and natural processes of our world for future generations.
My name is George Weaver IV, and I’m a beneficiary of sustainability that’s spanned four generations, starting with the farm my great grandfather founded in 1963. Since that time, how we view sustainability has shifted drastically. With each generation, our view of what it means to farm sustainably matures, becomes more informed and increases in its importance and necessity.
Being born into the farm and grocery industry, I’ve seen firsthand the incredible opportunities and needs for sustainable practices. I’ve watched our competitors and big agribusiness food manufactures produce food that is labeled deceptively. I’ve watched as year after year, consumers purchase products that have the appearance of being sustainable but in reality, come from manufacturers and farms whose practices far from resemble true sustainable farming. This has pushed me to provide consumers with a sustainable product they can trust.
A SUSTAINABLE MOVEMENT
When I was 19 years old, I helped launch our pasture raised egg brand, a brand that focuses on sustainability, responsibility and bettering our world for the environment, each other, and our hens. Utopihen Farms was born from a desire to bring healthier, more sustainable eggs to the market. It came from a place that longed to meet the needs and desires of our consumers — the consumers looking for sustainable food that is making a difference. The name Utopihen is a play on words, a reminder of the journey we are all on towards a better world. And for us, that journey starts with our hens. For us, it’s more than an egg brand — it’s a movement.
SUSTAINABILITY IN THE WORLD
Without a doubt, our world has a sustainability issue. Look around. It’s not hard to see that waste is a huge problem in our society today. You can see it in our city streets, our beaches and oceans. Waste is projected to increase 70% by 2025. By 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. Greenhouse emissions continue to rise, our carbon footprint remains high and food waste remains a huge issue with 40% of all food in the U.S. being wasted. These are just a few examples of the precarious position we have put ourselves in today.
While this information is daunting, there are incredible organizations that are actively working to reduce the waste around us. There is hope in the sustainability efforts of many caring people, companies and organizations. It would be great if we could snap our fingers and erase our carbon footprint. But that’s not reality. Truthfully, sustainability doesn’t guarantee instant change, and it doesn’t always start in leaps and bounds. In all reality, it’s the small decisions, choices, and changes that we as individuals make each and every day that leads us one step closer to a better world. Sustainability starts in our homes, our backyards, and our local farms.
As unfortunate as it sounds, industrial agriculture is one of the leading causes and sources of pollution in our world. From the 1 billion pounds of pesticides used each year to the Nitrogen based fertilizers, modern agriculture contributes around 10% to the total greenhouse gas emissions. It’s interesting to me how the very thing we are doing to support life (farming) is actually posing a threat to a healthy existence.
So, is there a way to help reverse the damage that has been done to our land and soil? Can we farm in a way that is better for the environment and not worse? Yes and yes — we can. Farming doesn’t need to continue in the broken cycle of commercial farming methods. I believe when we look to history, we see, prior to pesticides and huge tractors, a deeper, richer soil. The damage and degradation that is happening at the industrial farm level is astonishing. I advocate that farming sustainably is the only thing in this industry that will move us forward. Farming is meant to be a way of working along with nature, not against it.
LOCAL FAMILY-FARMERS IN A SUSTAINABLE-DRIVEN WORLD
Local farming is essential to creating a better world. Getting your eggs from a place you can know and trust is so important — especially in a world where so much of our food is unsustainably sourced. In many ways, Utopihen Farms is your replacement to backyard chickens. While raising hens for eggs in your backyard is idyllic — it’s not feasible for everyone. That’s why our family farmers are taking on the responsibility and farming in a way that provides our chickens with the best lives possible, so that you can feel confident in the eggs you buy. All our eggs come from small, unique, family-owned farms in rural Central PA. The farms we partner with are among the smallest farms in the industry. We don’t own the farm or the hens. This partnership gives the farmers more independence and control over how to run their farm. While we do have required standards to meet, overall, the farmers have control over their barns and flocks. This is far from normal for big egg companies. Many large egg companies will own their birds, limiting the farmer’s freedom, and cutting-in on his income and skillset. Growing up in this industry, I have grown more and more aware of the fact that when our farmers make small decisions on their farms, it can make a huge difference. In 2020, our farm coordinator introduced regenerative agriculture principles and practices into how our farmers run their farms. Regenerative agriculture practices rebuild organic matter in soil, restore soil biodiversity which sequesters carbon, improves the water cycle and will help combat climate change.
Some of the regenerative agricultural practices our farmers have started to incorporate include planting trees in the pastures to sequester carbon, reduce erosion and runoff. Trees also act as shade and feed (fruit bearing trees) for the hens. Other practices we’ve encouraged include rotational grazing, composting, and increasing biodiversity on their farm. We are already starting to see the benefits of such decisions — one being a more natural habitat for our hens that gives them a happier life, healthier diet, and far better-tasting eggs.
So, what about the eggs? How are these a part of our sustainability journey? In a way, they are the product of a sustainable mindset, farming and facility. They are largely sustainable because of where they come from. Eggs should never come from football size barns with hundreds of thousands of chickens living in confined areas. Sadly, this is the way conventional eggs are raised. Eggs should always be sustainable, coming from your backyard or local family farmers. After all, sustainability starts at the farm — how they are raised and shipped to stores. One of the best ways to ensure the eggs you eat are sustainably raised is through third party verifications. Utopihen Farms eggs are all Certified Humane, a pasture raised standard for ethical treatment of animals. These types of certifications ensure that what a brand or farmer is telling you is true. You can trust labels such as Certified Humane, Certified USDA Organic, and NON-GMO because these organizations care about the health and wellbeing of the hens and their eggs.
Because we believe in exceeding requirements, our hens are not only given more than the necessary room to spread their wings, but they’re also fed superior feed specific to the types of eggs they lay and to your dietary needs. Whether you have gone organic, or are avoiding soy, or need an egg that is Non-GMO — even an egg that doesn’t come from a chicken (aka our Pasture Raised Duck eggs) — we have just the egg. And the hen’s laying those eggs are well taken care of, with specific diets, supplemented by a healthy diet of bugs, insects and plants in the pasture.
Once the eggs are laid, gathered by the farmer, and stacked on re-usable trays, we pick them up and bring them to our facility where they can be washed, packaged and stored in a cool place until it’s time to hit the store shelves. All Utopihen Farms’ egg cartons are made from pulp and cardboard. That means they are reusable and recyclable. No Styrofoam or plastic. This is just another way we strive towards a more sustainable future.
At Utopihen Farms, we hope to grow our mission of creating a more sustainable world beyond the sustainability taking place in our pastures. Our passion is to come alongside our comrades in the farm and grocery industry as well as our partners and consumers, and empower them with products, resources and opportunities to make a difference in our world. One way we accomplish this is through trash cleanups, tree plantings and our initiatives to support and spark more innovation in our thoughtful leaders of today.
We are constantly seeking out ways to be more sustainable. By participating in a carbon offsetting program, we are proud to say Utopihen Farms’ packing facility is carbon neutral! This is huge for sustainability. We also love solar power. In fact, the roof of our warehouse is covered with 821 solar panels. This provides approximately 43% of the electrical energy we use each year. From reducing energy in our egg-cooler rooms through superior insulation to motion senser LED lights throughout our facility, we are super conscious of energy usage and offputs. These are just a few examples of what we are doing at a basic level to be more sustainable.
WRAP UP & CLOSING
While there’s lots more to be said, I hope this leaves you feeling encouraged to go out into the world and make change happen. Making any type of change starts with that one small decision to simply do better. I encourage you to find that “something” that you can do every day to help make a better, more sustainable world. Maybe you’ll start a brand, produce a product, or maybe you’ll contribute towards someone else’s endeavors. Maye you’ll start paying more attention to certifications and where your food comes from. We are all on a journey and that’s what matters and makes this all possible. Let’s all move towards better food, better farming, and healthier lives, not away from it. Together, we can make a difference for a better world.