The Craftsmanship at Hill Family Farm

By: Jessie Kuhn | Staff Writer
On: August 31, 2015

It’s impossible to sum up Ed Hill, but I’ll do my best. You can’t put a label on him, and there’s something quite beautiful about that. To be completely honest, he’s one-of-a-kind.

When you hear his name, Hill Family Farm may initially come to mind and the succulent chickens we’ve carried at DLM for nearly two decades. But let the label that may arise (chicken farmer) go, because for Ed, it’s not so much about what he does. It never has been. It’s about how he does it. “I treat what I do as an art,” he says. And as Ed, 78, shares his story with me detailing how he got to where he is now, I walk away in awe. He unrolls it with great care, presenting it chapter by chapter, as each leg of the journey is vastly different yet winds into the next with a commonality in the form of a guiding and unstoppable web of determination.

He is, after all, a man who lives a life of his own design and always has. After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University, Ed spent much of the 1970s in Xenia, Ohio, teaching art at area universities and creating quite a stir in the community as a sculptor and metal artist. He worked primarily with silver, gold, and bronze, creating everything from jewelry and chalices to food vessels, axes, and sculptures. In looking at Ed’s work, the craftsmanship is immediately apparent. I can’t help but see that same pride at play in the good stewardship his family provides to the chickens (lifetime free of antibiotics and hormones), from their grain-fed diet to the way Ed carefully picks them up one-by-one when transporting them.

In the mid-70s, Ed felt a yearning to travel overseas to explore his Viking and Scandinavian heritage. Just like that, he trusted his gut and left his studies at the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art, and knew that his education could better be fed by exploring the culture that had fascinated him for so many years. “I spent six weeks roaming around,” Ed says, detailing his travels through Germany, Denmark, Norway, England, and Iceland. As he sat in Iceland reflecting on his journey so far, he experienced an awakening. It was there that his dream was born to build a Viking longhouse once he returned home and to live a life inspired by his Nordic forefathers. After meeting his wife Joyce in 1979, she looked at him and said “let’s go build that thing.” They built the Viking longhouse on South Bass Island, home to Put-in-Bay, and lived there with their children for a decade, where they shared their art and home with tourists looking for a taste of Viking culture.

After selling the Viking longhouse in the spring of 1989, the family settled in a country farmhouse in Xenia. Ed thought, “what am I going to do now?” The land inspired him, as farming had been a part of his family for seven generations. He began growing heirloom grains. Then, as his children raised chickens for 4-H, a new chapter unfolded. “We were good at it,” Ed says.

His philosophy about raising the best chickens? “Care about them and treat them like they are your livelihood. And without them, you don’t have one,” he says. You’ll often find one of their chickens at the center of their own dinner table. At a recent meal, Joyce looked to Ed and said to him: “It doesn’t get any better than this.” He agreed.

In closing, I’m not going to call Ed a chicken farmer, a teacher, or a Viking. He’s quite honestly an artist who farms and who treats his subjects—whether they be chickens or the timber he used to build the Viking longhouse—with great respect and craftsmanship.

What makes Hill Family Farm chicken so special?

It all starts with raising the best chickens. Hill Family Farm chickens are free-roaming and fed a diet free of antibiotics and animal by-products. It has a rich flavor and perfect texture. They’ve been careful over the years to keep the farm, located in Xenia, at just the right size to allow each chicken ample room to grow and flourish. DLM, along with a pocket of local restaurants, is lucky to be included in the small circle to which they sell their chickens. In fact, we’re proud to say that we’ve carried Hill Family Farm chickens for nearly two decades.

One of the things we love most about the Hill family is that they eat the very same chicken that they send to DLM. Click here to view Joyce’s recipe to cook a whole chicken in one hour, something we can all appreciate.