- BY MATT FRANK -
100% Organic, Non-GMO, MN Sourced, Whole Grain Poultry Feed
Chickens in the city? Eggcellent! Raising your own chickens in an urban area provides immediate access to fresh eggs and a direct connection to healthy food. Plus, you get the added benefits of knowing exactly how the chickens are being raised, that they’re being treated humanely and what they’re being fed. What’s better than flavorful, freshly laid eggs from your own organically fed backyard chickens?
Powderhorn Feed Co., a homegrown business based in Minneapolis, produces 100 percent organic, non-GMO, Minnesota sourced whole grain poultry feed and provides on-site consultations to backyard chicken owners. I recently sat down with owner Rob Czernik to talk about the origins of the company, the product and services they provide, and the role you can play in supporting local urban chicken keeping efforts. Powderhorn Feed Co. is a small, independently run business that partners with locally owned garden centers and hardware stores to sell their feed.
Rob Czernik is an urban chicken advocate who walks the walk and talks the talk. His business grew out of a personal interest in backyard chicken keeping, the want for unprocessed chicken feed, and a yearning to educate others on the benefits of urban chicken keeping. Rob began raising chickens in the Twin Cities eight years ago and became involved with a poultry feed operation being run by Minneapolis urban agriculture enterprise Growing Lots Urban Farm. At the time, Growing Lots was running a small feed operation out of a warehouse space in the Seward neighborhood and was selling their product to individuals within the city who wished to feed their chickens whole grains instead of processed premixed feed. Rob began buying his poultry feed from Growing Lots, and in the process, became acquainted with their farmers and business.
In 2011, the partner in charge of Growing Lots’ feed operation moved out of the country, providing an opportunity for Rob to step in and take over. He picked up where Growing Lots had left off, producing the organic whole grain poultry feed and selling it to existing customers. In 2012, Rob officially incorporated the feed business as it continued to grow, naming it after the neighborhood where he lived, giving birth to Powderhorn Feed Co.
PRODUCT & SERVICES
Powderhorn Feed Co. poultry feed contains a mixture of nine whole grains from Minnesota-based distributor Whole Grain Milling Company, a third-generation family operation. Feed ingredients include high lysine corn (a nutritious hybrid variety high in protein), buckwheat, oats, brown flax, white sorghum, green field peas, winter wheat berries, spring wheat berries, hulled barely and rye berries. Unlike conventional premixed poultry feed, the Powderhorn Feed Co. mix doesn’t contain any soy products, additives or chemicals. Oyster shells are added to the mix as a source of calcium for the chickens. All poultry feed is mixed in small batches by hand to ensure proper whole grain ratios and is certified by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The mix resembles a diet that chickens might eat when foraging for food in a more natural setting as opposed to the typical GMO grain diet that they are often fed in industrialized agriculture systems and feedlots. Rob describes his product as a regenerative feed since it contains living grains that can be sprouted and grown perennially. In this way, the feed not only provides sustenance to chickens, but also continues producing additional feed resources on an annual basis.
Powderhorn Feed Co. is a wholesaler of 40-pound feed bags which are available for sale at seven local retail locations, including Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply in St. Paul; Anoka-Ramsey Farm & Garden in Anoka; and Mother Earth Gardens Northeast, Welna Ace Hardware (both the Seward and Phillips locations), Nicollet Ace Hardware, Urban Tails Pet Supply, and SouthSide Farm Store in Minneapolis. Rob is currently developing 20-pound bags for wholesale distribution through Co-op Partners Warehouse in order to sell the feed at local Twin City food co-ops. Individuals interested in purchasing directly from Rob, or wanting to buy smaller quantities, may contact Powderhorn Feed Co. 20-pound bags of feed are available for delivery and feed may also be purchased in bulk. Individuals who purchase directly through Powderhorn Feed Co. are provided with a free 15 minute on-site consultation from Rob regarding backyard chicken keeping basics, how to’s, and chicken coop siting and design. Consultations include a walk-through and questionnaire detailing the wants and needs of interested chicken owners.
Currently, the business is focused on the Twin Cities metro, but Rob is interested in distributing his poultry feed to other parts of the state as well. However, he’s content with the current manageable size of his one-man operation and views the business more as an educational and advocacy tool to teach people about raising chickens within the city as a way to step away from industrialized farming. In addition to selling poultry feed and providing urban chicken keepers with consultations, Powderhorn Feed Co. teaches urban chicken keeping classes around town through various outlets such as at food co-ops, libraries, civic centers, and public schools. So far, in 2017 Rob has taught over a dozen urban chicken keeping classes in cities including St. Paul, Minneapolis, Stillwater, and Hudson, Wisconsin. The money that Rob makes selling Powderhorn Feed. Co. organic poultry feed and teaching classes is reinvested locally through the development and maintenance of Twin City community gardens that support growing healthy foods.
THAT’S A WRAP!
At the end of our conversation, Rob left me with some parting advice: "Talk to your neighbors, plant a garden, raise chickens, be conscious of what you’re feeding them and yourself, work a little less and love a little more." Fitting words as we celebrate spring and the annual growing season kicking into high gear!