Orren Fox is a lot of things. He’s a chicken farmer, beekeeper, staunch foodie, and avid Celtics fan. He’s also a blogger with a large following. And, oh yeah, he’s only a freshman in high school. Since getting his first chickens five years ago, the 14-year-old vegetarian has immersed himself in the issues surrounding not just what we eat but how our food is made. Happy chickens, Orren likes to say, lay healthy eggs. He’s taken his message to NPR’s airwaves and serves on the advisory board of Boston-based ChopChop magazine, a family cooking publication. We visited Orren (and his chickens, ducks, and bees) at his home in Newburyport, Massachusetts.
“Some kids are really into sports, but for me it’s chickens. It’s something different and it’s a lot of fun. They just have so much personality. Last spring I got a Belgian d’Anvers. Her name is Alice, and she weighs less than one pound. It’s her breed–she’s just a really tiny bird. There’s a bunch of barn cats near the coop, and my initial fear was that they’d go after her, but Alice actually attacks the cats. And she loves talking and following me around. It’s just hilarious, and people fall in love with her when they visit the barn. They don’t see [my birds] just as animals that lay eggs or can be turned into chicken fingers; there’s a lot more to them.”
“When I got into chickens, a lot of my friends just responded to it. They were curious to know more, so, when I got to seventh grade, I started Farm Club. That’s when I really started integrating what I know about chickens and farming with other stuff, like how we get our food. It started small, but now there are 12 or 13 kids involved in it.”
“Because our food comes from so far away, it creates this disconnect, where a lot of people don’t really care about what they’re eating, just as long as it’s available to them. But I do think people want to make the right decision–they do want to eat healthy. It’s just a matter of getting them to see that if there’s a tomato from California and then there’s one from a farm 10 miles away, the local one is better because it didn’t take 100 gallons of gas to get it from the other side of the country. It’s getting them to see the total value of their food.”
“It’s hard, because you look at problems like factory farming or monoculture and you want to fix everything at once. But little steps add up. At school we started Meatless Mondays. It’s a small thing, but if you think about it, we’ve now got all those Mondays when we’re not eating meat. That’s maybe 30 total days, which is a whole month. That’s a lot.”
“Well, of course, like any 14-year-old boy, I’d love to be a professional athlete, like a lacrosse player, even though it hurts. But I know that’s a long shot. Through my blog I’ve learned that I like to write. A while ago we did this project in school on the law. It got me thinking about maybe being a judge. But we’ll see. Hopefully I’ll have a bunch of different options.”