Storybit : Shenandoah Valley Organic

This week’s blog takes us back out exploring the stories of some of the great farms and ranches that partner with Where Food Comes From.  This week we head out to Shenandoah Valley Organic, LLC (SVO) in Virginia to learn about their organic chicken farms.  SVO is a family-owned and ran company that works with local farmers who are 100% invested in the entire process, and is truly doing something unique by providing the consumer a Farm ID on every package – true traceability you can trust.  Let’s head out to Harrisonburg, Virginia and find out more about the story of Shenandoah Valley Organic!

The Story

Corwin Heatwole, Founder and CEO of Shenandoah Valley Organic, started with a simple idea, which later grew into an innovative business model with local farmers.  Starting at age 3, his father’s first poultry house started to inspire a life-long passion for Corwin.  From that passion came his first farm purchase in 2005.  Corwin knew there had to be a better way to make both farmers and customers happy.  In 2012, his first organic flock started with 300 chickens and quickly grew to 3,000 birds within a few months.

Within in a year the conversation began to change, and the Farmer Focus business model emerged.  Corwin saw that farmers felt constricted with the current model in place, not allowing them to have control of their farming operations and ownership of their chickens.  They were frustrated with the standard farmer contracts that forced them to compete against one another.  After lots of meetings and discussion s, a new contract model was created through SVO allowing farmers to have more control.  Today SVO is proud to support the hard-working family farms that partner with them.  With a renewed vision, Corwin and team set forth to continue their journey to be a clean-food company.  Nash Hill and Pine Ride Poultry were the first farms to start raising organic chickens for SVO.  With growing customer demand for their organic poultry they quickly had to seek additional partners.  In 2013, SVO immediately made the decision to open a processing facility and were able to increase the farms to a dozen throughout the next year.

With their growth, Shenandoah Valley Organics was in high demand, so much so they developed two retail brands under the names Red Wheelbarrow and Blue Ridge Trail to sell their products local and regionally.  In 2015, through Farmer Focus they created the innovative 4-letter Farm ID that traces chickens to their source of origin.  They closed the gap between customer and farmer thus providing you with traceability and transparency.  Customers were taking notice of the quality product and more farmers were coming onboard. By 2016, SVO was selling products to more than 500 stores across the Midwest and Atlantic regions.

Word of mouth travels quickly, especially in the food community.  By 2017, SVO was partnering with food bloggers like Lexi’s Clean Kitchen and gaining attention from culinary experts.  In 2018, a star was born.  You probably are familiar with a little show called The Chew.  Well, Chef Michael Symon developed multiple recipes exclusively using Shenandoah Valley Organics’ Farmer Focus chicken putting SVO on the national stage as a true innovator.  In 2018, the company re-launched all products under a single brand, Farmer Focus.  This is a testament to SVO’s dedication to providing clean products to customers while finding solutions to issues facing todays farmer.

Through their relationships, SVO has remained on the national stage.  In September of 2018, they became a sponsor for a nonprofit organization called Farm Aid. Founded by Willie Nelson, this organization serves as a support system for farm families in need. Continuing to build on their relationships, SVO now partners with food collaborators like Fresh Direct, Local Food Hub and Butcher Box, to provide access to local foods. SVO is also extending products through large retailers like Costco.  What started as an idea quickly grew into a heart-felt passion to serve customers in a more meaningful way while supporting local farmers.  This is truly an example of following your dreams. If you want change, you have to be the change.

Current Audit Services

SVO farming partners are routinely audited by third-party verifiers like the Where Food Comes From team. SVO chickens are raised and processed by the standards outlined by Certified Humane and Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating (GAP) standards.  In addition, upholding Certified Organic/non-GMO chicken farming and agriculture.  These audits help SVO stay accountable to the process creating healthy birds and better products.

The Benefits

Where Food Comes From focuses on transparency, which is a core part of SVO’s Farmer Focus Organic chicken program.  Our unbiased assessment of claims and source verification serve as a valuable resource for consumers that care about the quality and process needed to get food to their plates.  SVO believes the best result is a good quality of life for all involved in the process.  Sustainable farming combines science, innovation, and good old tradition benefiting the environment.  It’s all about cutting down the needless waste. Be sure to check out SVO to learn more about their amazing journey and their partnership with Where Food Comes From.

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