Family farm lives again - naturally

In an ever-growing suburban housing area in Huntersville sits a quiet piece of land. It is here Jonathan Bostic and his wife, Jan, will re-establish his family's farm.

East of Eden Farm, on McIlwaine Road, will be home to chickens, turkeys and beef cattle within the next few months; the animals will be available for sale to the public.

Jonathan Bostic, 29, said it is with the help of God that he, Jan, 27, and their son Zion, 2, recently moved to Huntersville to run the family farm.

Several generations of Bostic's family have lived on the farm since the 1920s. Jonathan's great-grandparents originally bought the land. Then it was close to 500 acres. Now it is about 150 acres.

When his grandparents tended the land, it was mostly used for cattle, Bostic said. "The majority of farmable land is still here," he said.

Throughout the years, the family had some animals and tended a garden. By the time Bostic was out of high school, most of the cattle were gone. Now, with Bostic's return, he will grow the farm over several years to create a sustainable poultry and beef system.

"It will take several years; it doesn't happen overnight," he said.

The farm's name, East of Eden, comes from thoughts Jonathan had while in graduate school. He was taking a class called "Theology of Creation," which led to a vision of farming with the care of creation in mind.

He said that on the farm he is living east of Eden, with Eden being the placed the Lord created. Being east of Eden is the closest to paradise he can live, he said.

Bostic, a graduate of North Mecklenburg High School, went to Montreat College in Asheville, where he earned his bachelor's degree in biblical studies. He then earned his master's degree in Old Testament from Regent College in Vancouver, Canada.

East of Eden Farm will sell chicken, turkey and beef, all of which will be Heritage breeds, meaning they are native to the United States. He also plans to have pigs and goats.

He wants to give people another opportunity for a food source.

His goal is "creating good food with the welfare of the community and the animal in mind," Bostic said.

All his animals will be pastured, which means they will be able to roam free on his fenced land rather than crowded into cages or pens, he said. They are fed organic, soy-free food.

Bostic has a breed known as Buckeye chicken that he is using for line breeding. Line breeding means they will take the best birds to repopulate and acquire the best of each generation. Some qualities he looks for in the chickens are head size, coloring, bone structure and the amount of meat on the bird.

The chickens are laying eggs, and Bostic will hatch those eggs in incubators. This way, he can build up his stock of birds. At 3 weeks old, they will be released into pens. Then they are let out onto the farm to live in the pasture.

In about 17 weeks, they will be ready to process. The Bostics are building a processing facility on the farm. Bostic said he plans to have 6,000 to 8,000 broiler chickens ready this year throughout the course of an eight- to nine-month growing season.

Bostic said his chickens are a better product than the grocery store sells because they are able to roam the land and have not been stuffed into a truck for miles. His birds live a better life, he said.

"We want to be as close to your dinner table as possible," Bostic said.

When purchasing from East of Eden farm, customers can buy the entire bird, he said.

"It is 110 percent a different animal," Bostic said.

Bostic will buy heritage beef cattle for the spring season.

The meat will be ready in the fall. Bostic plans to also sell eggs and vegetables.