South Carolina

‘Best chicken ever:’ Supporting local farms in York Co. may be easier than you think

In York County, food from a local farm straight to the table is right around the corner. It’s the same for Lancaster, Chester and Union counties.

Catawba Fresh Market delivers food – meats, vegetables, fruit and even pies – to pickup locations weekly from over 30 local farms and businesses.

On Friday, the nonprofit branch, Catawba Farm and Food Coalition, will hold a 5K to raise money to help local farmers during the Lancaster County Ag + Art Tour kickoff.

Gloria Kellerhals, the nonprofit’s chairperson, said the organization aims to support local farmers and make healthy food options available to everyone.

She first worried about access to fresh food after a neighbor told her what happened when he gave a banana to a teen.

“The kid took it and bit it like an apple because he had never seen a banana before,” she said. “That was about 20 miles from Rock Hill. That story shook me.”

The Catawba Fresh Market has been running for eight years.

“We’re just trying to address nutritional issues of the community through fresh food,” she said.

It’s also about supporting local farmers.

“There’s a resurgence across the country in sustainable local food,” she said. “And I don’t want this area to miss that trend.”

On the farm

One of the farms working with Catawba Fresh Market is Sharon Hill Farm, owned by Gina and Matt Decker. Their farm has goats, egg-laying chickens, beef cattle and broiler chickens — chickens raised for meat.

Decker and her husband moved from Rock Hill to Sharon, in rural York County, seven years ago.

She said she grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania, but her husband had no farming experience.

Now they process 4,000 to 6,000 chickens a year and collect about 120 eggs every day, she said.

Gina Decker said the difference between pasture-raised chickens, like hers, and grocery store chickens is huge – in quality of life, in nutrients and even in flavor.

“The main difference is these chickens are living the life they were meant to live,” she said. “We are not piling chicken on top of chicken on top of chicken.”

The Deckers don’t use pesticides or chemicals in the pastures, she said, and the animals don’t need antibiotics.

“If chickens lived in the wild, this would be as close as you could possibly get,” she said.

Sharon Hill Farms sells wholesale meat and eggs to a few restaurants in Charlotte, Greenville and Rock Hill, Gina Decker said.

Not only does she sell through Catawba Fresh Market, but she’s also a customer.

“You’re supporting local farmers,” she said. “Most people have no idea where their food comes from, and when you buy local, you’re supporting somebody whose livelihood depends on you supporting them.”

Getting food from the farm

That’s something Tami Windell loves about Catawba Fresh Market. She and husband own Overhead Station in downtown Rock Hill. It’s been one of the places customers can pick up their online orders, from a Catawba Fresh Market-branded fridge in the store, for two years, she said.

“Knowing the story of how they treat their animal makes a big difference,” Windell said. “My husband and I are big believers that a happy animal, you can tell a difference in their meat.”

Windell hasn’t visited any of the farms, but she knows them all by name, including Sharon Hill Farm.

“Best chicken ever,” she said about Decker’s farm. “Oh dear heavens, best chicken ever.”

Like the Windells, Cynthia Robinson, delivery coordinator for Catawba Fresh Market, orders food almost weekly. She ordered grits, rice, lettuce, eggs, squash and more on the website Thursday.

“Health is very important to me,” she said. “I like my body and I like to put good things in it. If I do that, then I stay healthier. And that’s important to me, and I like for others to do that, too.”

There are seven pickup locations in York County, one in Chester County, and one in Union County. The organization also delivers to the Microsoft campus in Charlotte for employees.

Customers can order online and pick up their delivery one day a week at the closest pickup location.

“It’s easy,” Windell said. “It’s very much worth it. I guarantee within three months, they’ll notice a health difference within themselves.”

Want to run or walk the FarmK?

The FarmK 5K run and walk is 6 p.m. Friday, along with the Lancaster County Ag + Art Tour Kickoff, at Benford Brewery in Lancaster.

Registration costs $25 and includes a beer and a T-shirt.

The Ag + Art Tour Kickoff is 6 to 10 p.m., with free admission, live music, food trucks, outdoor games, and an artisans and farmers market.

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Hannah Smoot reports on money and power for The Herald, covering York, Lancaster and Chester counties. She has been a reporter at The Herald since June 2017. Contact Hannah at 803-329-4068, or follow her on Twitter @hgsmoot.