Bobby and Carie Ortman lived off the grid for seven years in White Sulphur Springs before finding their way to Alderson in 2011 to start Purple Mountain Phoinix Farm. The Ortman’s, who are originally from Maryland, are both new to farming. “September 11th made us realize we were not chasing our dreams in DC” Carie says. They decided to travel and search for a place to realize their dream of living closer to the land. They drove all around the southern United States looking for a place to live in the countryside. They kept coming back to the Lewisburg area and decided it had everything they were looking for. “One morning when we were driving back to Maryland we watched the sunrise over the hills in the Greenbrier valley. We thought, now we have seen purple mountain majesty.” That experience is why they chose Purple Mountain for the first half of the farm’s name. The current farm location in Alderson had a fire on the property in 2007; the farm is the Ortman’s way of bringing the place back to life and rising it from the ashes. Hence, the second part of the farm name Phoinix. They choose the classical Greek spelling of the mythical bird and named their farm Purple Mountain Phoinix Farm, which has been rising ever since.
The couple raises chickens on pasture for eggs and meat. Their farm has over 600 chickens and 23 different breeds; all of which range freely throughout the 17 acres of the farm. They are interested in preserving rare and endangered breeds like the Dominique, which are black and white like a Barred Rockbut have a ‘rose comb’ versus ‘single’ or ‘straight comb’ of the Barred Rock. They do not raise Cornish hens like most farmers do for meat birds. Instead they raise slower growing chickens, which live on the farm for 16-18 weeks. They breed and incubate the eggs to sustain their flock and the endangered breeds. There’s nine different barns all equipped with heating lamps. “Chickens need 15 hours of sunlight a day to produce eggs, if you put a light in their coop they will produce eggs all winter long” says Bobby. Weekly, the chickens consume 800 to 1000 pounds of feed. Bobby supplements their food with hay that he grows and bales himself from his fields. “If you feed your chickens well, they produce great eggs” says Bobby, “and when a rooster crows you know they are comfortable and happy, we know ours are happy!”
You can find Purple Mountain Phoinix Farm whole chicken, pieces, feet, hearts, and free-range eggs for sale on Monroe Farm Market, the Alderson Green Grocer, and the Alderson Farmers Market. They also sell a variety of ages of chicks and chickens in the spring at the Alderson Farmers Market.
When I asked them about what advice they would give to new farmers, they replied, “Don’t be afraid to fail, you will never know unless you try.”
HASHTAGWV ART & ENTERTAINMENT Publisher/Editor-in-Chief, Christina Entenmann-Edwards has been a WV resident since September 2008. She was born and raised in Fairfield County, Connecticut, and is no stranger to hard work and the entrepreneurial spirit. In 2006, she graduated from Quinnipiac University (Hamden, Connecticut), Cum Laude, with a B.A. in History. In 2010, she graduated with an M.B.A. from Liberty University (Lynchburg, Virginia). In February 2012, Christina launched HashtagWV as the area’s first full-color, free arts and entertainment tabloid + online platform. Christina completed the Leadership West Virginia class of 2021, which is an innovative program that grows, engages, and mobilizes leaders to ignite a life passion to move West Virginia forward.