It’s raining steadily as Jay Maddink tends to a couple thousand young chickens inside a hot, small barn in Lathrop, Missouri. His wife, Carol Maddink, says the chicks are about three weeks old and are being raised as broiler birds.
“These will all get butchered pretty much in one week,” she says. “And this is what we'll take to the restaurants and grocery stores in about six weeks from now.”
Chickens and eggs are the two main products on Campo Lindo Farms, which Jay and Carol founded about 30 years ago. When they first bought the farm in 1990, Carol says they mainly raised cattle. The farm’s pivot to poultry was driven by the birth of the couple's first son in 1995, and a greater need to make a living off the farm.
Since that decision, the farm has steadily grown in its popularity and clientele: a number of "farm-to-table" restaurants in Kansas City use Campo Lindo eggs and chickens in their dishes, and cartons of Campo Lindo eggs can be found in many local grocery stores.
“We like to say we were local before local was cool,” Carol says.
In nearly 30 years, Jay says the farm has grown from raising 300 chickens a month to 1,300 a week.
At first, Carol says, local chefs were hesitant to buy meat from local vendors.
“When we first started, there were really no local products being used by chefs or the grocery stores,” she says. “When we'd started approaching them, they'd be like, ‘Oh no, our product has to come from the big farms.’ So we got all the inspections that we needed and we were like, ‘Just try our product.’”
The Classic Cup Cafe and The American Restaurant (which is no longer open regularly) were some of the first Kansas City restaurants to use Campo Lindo’s eggs and chickens.
As more restaurants have started using Campo Lindo products, and making a point of it on their menus, the farm’s name has become well-known among locavores in the Kansas City area. And that name has its origins in a Chilean folk song.
“It talks about a farmer who has a farm and it's called Campo Bueno, which means pretty country,” says Carol, who grew up in the South American country. “And then he meets the love of his life and they make it a home and it goes from being Campo Bueno, which is pretty farm, to Campo Lindo, which is beautiful farm.”
One of Campo Lindo’s most defining qualities is a personal note included in every carton of eggs that leaves the farm. Carol writes those notes every two week; she began doing it when the farm started selling its eggs through grocery stores.
“I just missed the communication that I had with our customers,” Carol says. “So I was like, ‘Well, I'll just start putting a little note, at least it's one-way communication,' but what's turned out really cool is a lot of times people take the time, they'll send a little email or phone call. … I'm not just selling something that we have a relationship with our customers, which is so cool.”
While Campo Lindo has grown over the years, it’s still a small, 285-acre family farm where nearly every task is still done by hand. Jay said this makes it difficult for the farm to grow past its current level of output and productivity.
“Probably for the last four years we've been at the production level that we're at now, and we don't really feel like we can grow anymore,” he says. “I mean, to grow past what we are, there's just not enough hours. You just can't do it.”
Even after nearly three decades of running Campo Lindo, Jay and Carol still cherish the feeling of seeing other people enjoy their products.
“When you see it on the shelf it's like, ‘Oh wow, we did that,’” he says.
Celisa Calacal is an intern at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at @celisa_mia.