Case and his wife, Caitlin, stand side-by-side in the egg room at Jones Valley Farm. Their young daughter is propped up on a stool beside them, happily assisting with egg gathering. Their son, fitted in little rubber rain boots, plays quietly in the distance. This is what a typical morning looks like for the Jones family.
Case and Caitlin purchased their farm in May of 2022. Before becoming farmers, they were living on only one acre of land. Now, the family oversees 130 acres – 60 of which are pasture.
Case was raised in a small farming community in Missouri. At the age of 13, he volunteered his time to help local farmers raise livestock.
“My favorite thing about farming is being around the animals. I wanted to learn more, so I took classes in cow handling. I love seeing how cows and chickens act on the farm. I find them so interesting and fun to work with.”
Meanwhile, Caitlin grew up on a 60-acre farm with horses, dogs, goats, and cats. When presented with the opportunity to have a farm of their own, there was no question about it. This is the life Caitlin wanted for her family.
“The farm is something I can pass down to my kids one day. If it’s something they want to do, great! If it’s not something they want to do, then we can sell it. But it’s nice to have the option to give this to them.” Caitlin continues, “Our kids love helping out with egg gathering. They like to find eggs with shells that didn’t form all the way. They’re soft on the outside. We call them Squishies!”
The gathering continues. Caitlin and her daughter guide a steady stream of brown-shelled eggs across the conveyer belt as Case organizes them into trays.
“One day, I was sitting here doing this and thinking, Wow, I’m helping feed America right now,” Caitlin shared with pride and passion. “A lot of people think farmers are cruel to animals. But why would I treat something that helps provide for me cruelly? We treat our animals right here and really care for them the best we can.”
Their daughter interrupts, lifting her arm in the air. Her small hand gently wrapped around an egg resembling a tan, wrinkled blanket. “Squishy!!!” she giggles. The egg room fills with joy and laughter.
As the family wraps up their egg gathering for the day, Caitlin ushers her kids inside while Case continues to the pasture. There, lush green grass sits below a tightly knit forest of trees. Hens gather beneath the leaves, while others splash through mud puddles, still present from recent rains.
“When I was first taking over this farm, the hens didn’t want to be around me. And I wasn’t sure why. But then I saw a hat on the previous farmer’s wall, and it clicked for me. I said to him, ‘You wore a hat when you walked around the birds, didn’t you?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I did.’ So I started wearing a hat too, and then they were fine as can be. Over time, the hens really get to know you and recognize you. And when something is different, they get a little jumpy. But as soon as they’re around someone familiar, they’re calm again.”
Hens cluck and coo as they waltz past Case. He watches them with a soft smile.
“I like to reference movies when I tell people about my farm. Many think of Napoleon Dynamite and the scene where he puts the chickens back into a smaller cage. And they think that’s what my farm is like. But that’s not it at all. These birds can go wherever they want. They can go inside, or they can go outside – all the way down 1200 feet away from the barn. They aren’t limited to those four walls. I like to show people that hens can be raised without cages. I love to see my chickens outside and happy. We treat them right here.”