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Chickens, eggs, and farming at Two Wash Ranch

Lauren Potter ~ Staff~ 3/2/2015

NEW RIVER – After 28 years as an automotive technician, owning a chicken farm in Arizona was the last thing Dave Jordan thought he would be doing.

“It started out as a hobby,” said Jordan, owner at Two Wash Ranch in New River.

Having relocated to the desert to escape Chicago’s icy winters, Jordan, 48, purchased a plot of land, with no clear goals in mind.

“I didn’t buy this place to become a farm,” Jordan. “I bought it as a piece of land and had a couple chickens of my own.”

But, as Jordan explained, some people just can’t stop at one or two chickens.

“As it would be, most people who get a few chickens buy a few more, buy a few more, buy a few more,” said Jordan, as he leaned against the wall of a metal shipping container, knee bent, with the toe of his dusty leather boot propped on the concrete floor.

“Then all of a sudden you’ve got too many eggs,” Jordan said.

After buying his property in 1999, and acquiring multiple chickens, Jordan took the advice of a local farmer and started selling his eggs at farmers’ markets. Skeptical at first, Jordan soon saw his excess eggs turning into money.

Pretty soon his eggs were in demand at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market, where he says they would sell out in less than an hour.

“One day I stopped at Binkley’s,” said Jordan, who wanted to see whether Kevin Binkley, owner and chef of the multi award-winning restaurant wanted to buy some of his eggs.

“And he did,” Jordan said with a smile.

But the demand of doing farmer’s markets and selling to restaurants wasn’t working out, so he decided to shift his focus.

“I decided to go toward the restaurant end,” Jordan said. After a couple high-end Valley restaurants asked if he could sell chicken for meat, he said, ‘Well, I’ll give it a try.”

And, as Jordan said, “that just took off.”

While he loves his job, he says it’s not for everyone.

“‘Oh, I would love to have a little farm,’” Jordan said, making reference to people who romanticize about the idea of owning a farm.

“Yes, you have your little garden,” he said. “But you just have no idea what it takes.”

As his girlfriend of three years, Nikki Buchanan is all too familiar with what it takes.

“He said, ‘You know, the farm and I are a package. I can’t be separated from the farm, so you’re going to have to understand everything that entails,” Buchanan said as she recalled their pre-dating conversation. “‘You may think you love me, but this farm is all wrapped up in who I am and it’ll all go together.’”

Admittedly, Buchanan, former food critic-turned English teacher, thought she understood what it all entailed. It wasn’t until they started dating that she finally realized how it all worked.

“We just went on our first vacation last year,” Buchanan said. “Two days at the beach in California.”  

Buchanan equates owning and operating a farm to having children.

“Before people have a baby, people who have children say to them, ‘Your whole life is going to change,’” Buchanan said. “The parents to-be always say, ‘Oh, I know! I’m really ready for that,’ and they’re not. Because they don’t understand what it really means.”

And, like dating a farmer, Buchanan said, they will never really understand the responsibility until it happens.

While Jordan’s main focus is currently chickens, he is still able to spend time doing what he loves the most: growing vegetables.

“To be honest with you, the chickens pay the bills, but what I love is growing the vegetables, being in the earth – the peace, being connected to it,” he said.

“(Jordan’s) garlic is just phenomenal,” said Chris Lenza, executive chef at Cafe Allegro at the Musical Instrument Museum.

For Jordan, being a farmer is more than just a job: It’s a lifestyle. Although working 15-hour days, seven days a week is endlessly tiring, he finds it incredibly rewarding.

“I give all the chefs the same chicken and seeing the chefs make such different creations with it, it’s like giving them a canvas and they all paint a different picture,” Jordan said.

“It’s really rewarding for me to see that.”

Jordan’s chicken, eggs and select vegetables are currently on the menu at several restaurants across the Valley including St. Francis, The Breadfruit and Quiessence (Phoenix), Virtù, FnB and Café Allegro at MIM (Scottsdale), and Binkley’s (Cave Creek).