Outside the community of Burchard, Nebraska, lies the family operation of Plum Creek Farms, a local chicken distributor started by Dean and Amy Dvorak that is considered by many in the restaurant industry to be the gold standard for suppliers.
Their humble farming adventure began in 2001 with a small herd of cattle and sheep. In 2003, they came across the need for a free-range egg supplier to local restaurants and grocery stores around the Omaha and Lincoln area. As their operation grew, it was apparent that their customers were in even greater need of a supplier for local free-range chicken meat. Dean pursued this need by letting go of his cattle and sheep, and began his journey of butchering 30-40 chickens a week, which was barely enough to keep up with demand.
The butchering operation far exceeded egg production needs, resulting in a remodel of the farm in 2005 to allow for more room for the free-range broilers. As the years went by and the Dvorak children grew up, Dean and Amy were able to hire their son-in-law, Logan Barr, in 2011. Soon after, they also hired their daughter, Cara Jasa, and son, Patrick Dvorak, to keep up with the expanding duties of the farm.
In 2018, Dean and Amy converted Plum Creek Farms into a distribution company. They moved out of their house on the farm property and turned more of the day-to-day operations over to their hired family. This decision gave Barr and his wife, Olivia, the opportunity to move into the house on the farm and take over the egg distribution while further helping with production of the poultry.
From day-old chicks to broilers waiting for butchery, Plum Creek Farms currently raises close to 10,000 birds at one time. A majority of the chickens are Cornish Cross Broilers. Unlike many larger operations that limit their chickens to living belly to belly, Plum Creek Farms’ mission is to give its chickens as much light and space to run around as needed. With this freedom of space, Plum Creek Farms found its chickens need an additional 11 days to finish growing before they are ready to be butchered at 53-days-old. Even at processing time, the chickens are lighter weight than many of the national producers.
Dean’s week usually begins at 4:30 a.m. each Monday when it is time to catch the chickens for that week’s orders. The birds are then prepared and hung overnight in an air cooler held at 33 degrees. Tuesday is their packaging day where the birds are fabricated into the exact pieces as ordered. Wednesday is reserved for making all of their deliveries in Omaha and Lincoln, while the rest of the week is used for cleaning out buildings and taking the following week’s orders.
Customers of Plum Creek Farms include about 50 restaurants and grocery stores, and another couple hundred individual accounts. One of the largest accounts is The Institute for Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College. The school teaches its students the significance in working with such fine product.
Plum Creek Farms believes in the necessity of providing its poultry with a grain-based vegetarian diet, free of antibiotics and hormones. This high-quality feed and the access to the outdoors creates the perfect environment for its chickens to produce the meat that sets Plum Creek Farms apart.
In contemplating the farm’s future, Dean wants to be able to offer more grass-fed beef along with rabbits and ducks in the next year. He imagines someday soon they will be able to hatch their own chicks rather than ordering day-old chicks. “Most of all, I want to focus on slowly expanding, but not too much more as I want to continue keeping a good reputation,” he said. “I don’t want to hold on to everything myself, and I am willing to work with my children, as ownership is good for them and their families.”
Dean also has a pure love for the country. “I love living out of town and how quiet it is compared to the hum of the city,” he said. “The farm smells better than the city, except for the cow pasture on rainy days. I am very thankful for everything Omaha has done for us. People have been very kind, staying with us and giving us a chance. The birds are not always consistent, so we can’t always supply our customers perfectly when certain cuts of meat are unavailable.”
This flexibility has created high respect for both their customers and their farm to continue working together, bringing the fulfillment of community full circle. Dean’s customers choose to work with him, because they trust him and love his product, and Dean has the pleasure to work with his family, doing exactly what he loves.
Plum Creek Farms
60687 712 Rd., Burchard