Lifestyles

Story published: 07-09-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Bringing flavor back at Kany Farm


When they were younger, Mike and Karen Heiney remember eating chicken, or even eggs, that boasted lots of flavor. As they grew older, though, the chicken they purchased at the store, “just didn’t taste good anymore,” Karen says.

Kany Farm, (“Kany” was Karen’s childhood nickname) grew out of those embryonic efforts and memories.

When the husband and wife bought their farm in Greene County and began to raise their own chickens, they discovered poultry actually had flavor again.

“When I would eat at my grandparents’ house, they would butcher their own chickens,” Karen recalls. “Throughout our lives, my husband and I have had meat from the farm, so we knew what it tasted like and we just couldn’t figure out what happened. [Our chickens] really have a lot of flavor. ”

Heiney grew up in Minnesota where she worked in her father’s factory. She met her husband Mike, who works as a maintenance electrician, in Colorado.

When they purchased property in Bulls Gap, it was just land; there was no farm.

Since then, the couple has built a farm and expanded their livestock.

Karen works with the chickens full time, and Mike, who helps with the chickens as a side job, plans to work with them full time eventually.

Not only are the Heineys’ chickens more flavorful, they are also chemical-free and organic.

“They’re not full of antibiotics or preservatives or chemicals,” Karen says. “We feed them whatever they get out of the pasture. We feed them grain that we get from the local mill. They do get grain and corn as a supplement, but it’s all locally grown from local farmers around here.”

Likewise, their eggs are pasture-raised and fresh.

“They’re only a few days old,” Karen says. “We sell at three different markets — Kingsport, Johnson City and Jonesborough. People can get them from us in Greeneville, too. They’re only a few days old, whereas at the store you don’t know how old they are. We have a couple hundred laying hens at home, so they’re very fresh.”

In addition to raising chickens, the Heineys also have a garden. They have a passion for fresh food, but often the garden takes a back seat to working with the chickens, which keep them extremely busy.

They keep the chickens outside all the time. The chickens live in a chicken tractor that the couple move all the time.

Besides allowing them to feed off the land and the grain she buys them, Karen also raises black soldier fly larvae that she feeds the chickens in winter.

The larvae, which are like mealworms, provide the chickens with protein since they can’t glean much protein from the cold ground.

Unlike a lot of store-bought chicken, the breed of chicken the Heineys raise is meant to be eaten as meat and is not from a tough laying hen or an old bird that has been allowed to run around and become tough, Karen explains.

“The breed of chicken that I produce is not meant for the crockpot,” she says. “It’s a very tender chicken. It’s born and butchered in nine or 10 weeks. It’s a Cornish class bred chicken. They’re a breed that’s meant to be meat.”

Raising and butchering the chickens is costly.

“I have to take my chickens to Kentucky to have them processed,” she says. “There is nowhere in Tennessee that does small farms right now and I can’t just take them to a butcher’s shop to have them farmed. I have to take them to a USDA poultry place. That’s why it’s so expensive and that’s why you don’t find a lot of people who do poultry around here.”

In the end, though, raising chickens has been worth it.

Unlike the chicken at the store, which Karen says, “just gets worse and worse all the time,” the Heineys have rediscovered fresh flavor by going back to the farm and raising their own chickens.