Living the life of a ‘locavore’ in South Jersey

Locavores are usually defined as those who consume only food produced within a 100-mile radius of where they live. Many who consider themselves a locavore feel they gain a stronger connection with the local farming community while experiencing a sustainable way of eating.

While locavores have plenty of options to get fresh produce in New Jersey, it can be more of a challenge for the locavore to source local grass-fed meat, and free-range poultry and eggs.

That’s where 7th Heaven Farm, LLC, in Tabernacle comes in. It’s one area farm that fills that void with their “Meat and Egg Family Share Program.”

For an annual fee of $100, consumers can purchase chemical free, humanely raised products directly from the farm. Orders can be picked up at the farm or delivered and the Family Share Program at 7th Heaven Farm is available all year.

Carla, who didn’t want to provide her last name, is the owner and operator of 7th Heaven Farm.

She says she had a goal in mind when she opened up shop in 2006, to revive diminishing breeds of domestic livestock on her newly purchased seven-plus acres of land. Along with her daughter, Carla left behind a career as an international development specialist in Washington, D.C. to move home to Tabernacle in Burlington County.

Although she still breeds livestock for sale, a family illness led to a wider focus.

“I learned a lot about food when my mom was diagnosed with cancer,” said Carla.

“Thereafter, I changed our eating habits and started raising animals for food as well,” she added. “I hated myself for killing them. I cried a lot,” she admitted. “But my customers reassured me that I was doing a good thing, not bad. I am still sad when I take my animals to slaughter, but I do not cry (as much) and I stopped hating myself”.

Carla knows there are personal reasons people choose to practice the locavore way of life, but she says she is more concerned with the animals.

“I am a humane farmer, so it is about the animals here,” she explains. “The human and environmental benefits are spillovers.”

Carla cares for more than one hundred animals on her farm including, sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, peafowl, guineas, cats and one dog.

The animals raised at 7th Heaven are fed a natural diet like they would receive in the wild. But unlike in the wild, Carla makes sure that their daily nutritional needs are met. “Animals raised naturally on pasture produce meat that is better for you and tastes better,” said Carla. “The flesh is not contaminated by chemicals or corrupted by grains, and it’s extremely fresh. Your taste buds indulge in the real flavor, texture and tenderness of the meat,” she claims.

At her farm, grain is a supplement for the chickens and pigs but not offered to the other meat animals. “Their main diet is what they forage outdoors,” said Carla. “Sunlight, fresh air and clean water also play a big roll in the production of eggs and meat. These are the factors that the commercial food industry cannot replicate,” she added.

7th Heaven’s customer base includes wholesale and retail customers, including “young, old, singles, couples, families, healthy and sick; but they all have one thing in common, they care about themselves, the environment and animals.”

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