by Laura Steiger, Outreach Team, and Hannah Coughlin, Brittle Barn Farms
Karl Prisk (left), Zack Tyler, and Tarquin, Zack’s trusty Australian Shepherd, take a break from tending their free-range turkey flock at Brittle Barn Farms in Ferndale. The farm prides itself in buying local and used a Farm Fund loan to purchase organic, Non-GMO Project Verified feed from Bellingham’s Scratch & Peck Feeds for their poultry flock.
Zack Tyler of Brittle Barn Farms, a local free-ranged meat producer, has been interested in animal husbandry for as long as he can remember.
Growing up on a half-acre in Arcata, California, with his younger brother and hobby-farm parents, Zack was inspired by his small community of do-it-yourselfers and small farmers. “Every Saturday I got to see farmers and artisans pour into an empty street and make it come alive with their hard work and passions,” said Zack.
His mom makes her living raising fiber animals (llama, sheep, and goats), spinning, and knitting their wool into wares that she’s sold at the Arcata Farmers Market for over 25 years. His dad taught Zack how to slaughter Thanksgiving turkeys when he was six. “My parents taught me to be respectful and compassionate to our animals from the beginning to the end,” said Zack.
After he moved to Bellingham to realize his dream as a small farmer, Brittle Barn Farms was born.
After he moved to Bellingham to realize his dream as a small farmer, Zack and his partner, Hannah, rented a five-acre plot just outside of Bellingham where Brittle Barn Farms was born. They raised meat chickens, egg layers, goats, ducks, geese, turkeys, and Icelandic sheep.
Zack noted, “Neither of us had any capital to start with—no inheritance, no wealthy relatives, and not much combined income.”
Zack works in the classroom with developmentally disabled or at-risk youth, and Hannah works for a local environmental nonprofit, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities.
“We had to start at square one—on a cheap rental with a falling down barn,” said Zack.
They named their farm after that barn to remind them of the virtue of small beginnings.
In 2014, Brittle Barn Farms moved to Cougar Creek Ranch in Ferndale, a 160-acre original homestead owned by the Prisk Family. “Karl [Prisk] and I have been friends for a long time. After he moved to town to farm his grandfather’s land, it was an obvious partnership,” said Zack. They went into business together and grew Brittle Barn Farms, increasing their overall production, and adding cows and hogs to the farm.
In the spring, the Co-op Farm Fund secured a low-interest loan for Brittle Barn Farms in partnership with Industrial Credit Union.
The farm used the loan to purchase organic feed from Scratch & Peck Feeds.
“It’s important to us to operate locally. That includes where we purchase our feed,” said Zack. Purchasing organic, Non-GMO Project Verified feed upfront from Scratch & Peck enables the farm to better control the price and quality of their free-range poultry, while keeping their money circulating in our local economy.
Zack’s dream is to farm full-time. “I love caring for the animals, being connected to the seasons and natural life cycles, and I love producing an important commodity for my community,” he said.
You can purchase Brittle Barn Farms’ chicken at the Cordata store. All their meats are available at both Bellingham Farmers Markets, Carne, and on the farm.