James Rada, Jr.
Deer Run Farm in Emmitsburg was featured on the 100th episode of Maryland Farm & Harvest. You can stream the episode, which aired February 9, 2021, on the Maryland Public Television website.
Ronald and Annie Stewart started a herd of Red Angus cattle and established the farm in 1996. They raised and sold the cattle for breeding and consumption. The past year, in particular, has been a busy one for the farm.
“The beef demand during COVID has been ridiculous,” said Allison Stewart, who helps run the farm with her husband, Josh. “People have been wanting to stock up on beef or buy extra for their families because they are afraid there will be empty grocery shelves again.”
The poultry operation on the farm began in 2017 when an opportunity arose to purchase a neighbor’s poultry operation. The family talked it over and decided Josh and Allison would run the poultry operation. While the previous owner provided assistance for the first year, Josh and Allison went on a steep learning curve to learn all they could about poultry.
Allison was, understandably, nervous. Before moving to Emmitsburg, “I had never seen a farm,” she said. “I went to school in Pittsburgh, and I had a job there, but I’ve always been an animal lover.”
When the opportunity presented, she worked as a graphic designer in Emmitsburg, but she and her then-boyfriend, Josh, decided she would commit to running their own farming operation full-time.
They now have 1,000 chickens in five breeds (Delaware, Welsummer, Oliver Eggers, Copper Marans, and Ameraucanas). They are pasture-raised chickens.
“These are your grandma’s chickens,” Allison said. “They don’t have as much meat as the chickens you buy in stores, but they have more flavor.”
With different breeds of chickens, you also get a rainbow of egg colors—blue, green, brown, tan, and speckled.
“Some people swear different colored eggs taste different,” Allison said. “I don’t think so. They are all fed the same thing, and they have access to the bugs in the pasture, which are nature’s best ingredients.”
Besides the different colors, free-range chickens lay eggs with thicker shells, with yolks that are a rich orange, and with better nutritional content, according to some studies.
It was the array of colorful eggs that caught the attention of Maryland Farm & Harvest. Deer Run Farm now has a thriving business selling eggs, chicks, and chicken meat. Customers drive to the farm from as far away as New Jersey and Virginia. The farm has also sent chicks to all 50 states. There is a demand for heritage breeds of chicken.
“South Dakota was the last holdout,” Allison said. “For the longest time, we couldn’t find a customer there.” She keeps a map with pins in it, marking all the places they have shipped their chicks.
Because the farm ships all over the country, each state’s shipping regulations have to be followed. The Stewarts also make sure their chicks are disease-free.
“We are the only hatchery in the country that vaccinates our chicks for everything they can be vaccinated for,” Allison said. “We also have our birds tested every three months to make sure there’s no sickness.”
The crew from Maryland Farm & Harvest spent the day on the farm in March 2020, following Josh and Allison around to see how the poultry operation works. It turned out to be great publicity because Allison said she saw a noticeable increase in their orders from Maryland customers.
To learn more about Deer Run Farm, visit deerrunfarmmd.com.
A day-old chick at Deer Run Farm explores her world before being shipped to a new home somewhere in the United States.
Allison Stewart of Deer Run Farm holds day-old chicks that will soon be shipped out to places across the country. Cover Photo & Photo Below by James Rada, Jr