Pro­posed chicken farm own­ers re­but con­cerns

Ris­ing Sun cap­tures Ma­jor Base­ball Dis­trict 5 crown

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JANE BELLMYER

jbellmyer@ce­cil­whig.com

— Galen and Crys­tal Horst have been farm­ing their Eng­land Cream­ery Road land for nearly 14 years.

The cou­ple has five chil­dren and hopes to pro­vide a fu­ture in farm­ing for them and con­tinue in the Horst fam­ily tra­di­tion. That fu­ture in­cludes an or­ganic, freerange chicken op­er­a­tion.

“It’s some­thing we thought would be a great as­set, to keep it in the fam­ily,” Crys­tal said Wed­nes­day.

ZION

“This will be great for our chil­dren.”

More than 100 neigh­bors met Mon­day night at the Amer­i­can Le­gion in Ris­ing Sun to make plans to fight the Horsts’ pro­posed chicken op­er­a­tion. Led by Brian Frymi­are, the group is con­cerned about air and wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion, health is­sues and dam­age to the wa­ter ta­ble, among other items. Also on their list of com­plaints is what they feel is a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion from the gov­ern­ment agen­cies in­volved.

The Horsts are aware of the up­roar and say if it were as dan­ger­ous as some are mak­ing it sound, they would not be con­sid­er­ing build­ing the op­er­a­tion ei­ther.

“We are just not go­ing to put our own fam­ily at risk,” she said. “We want peo­ple to know what we’re do­ing. We want them to have the right in­for­ma­tion.”

She sus­pects the de­trac­tors are not aware of the lay­ers of rules and reg­u­la­tions they will fol­low to raise 1-day-old chicks into

broil­ers for Per­due Farms. The cou­ple is still in the per­mit­ting process and has no idea when ground would be bro­ken on the more than 220 acres for the four 60-by-600foot chicken houses. Keep­ing the neigh­bors in mind, they plan to sit­u­ate the houses far in­side their own prop­erty lines. In a re­port by the Ce­cil County Health Depart­ment, the Horsts were given high marks for the 600-foot buf­fers.

“The rec­om­men­da­tions of this as­sess­ment in­clude set­backs for new chicken houses of 400 feet from a dwelling and 100 feet from a prop­erty line. The Horst pro­posal greatly ex­ceeds these set­backs,” the re­port reads.

“And we’re hop­ing to plant trees as a buf­fer,” Crys­tal added.

Colby Ferguson with the Mary­land Farm Bureau said it ap­pears “they are try­ing to be good neigh­bors.”

Cit­ing Mary­land’s “Right To Farm” law, Ferguson said the Horsts are within their rights to farm their land be­cause it is al­ready zoned agri­cul­tural.

“And neigh­bors are to un­der­stand there are cer­tain smells and slow mov­ing equip­ment,” he said.

At the Zion Acres Farm on Wed­nes­day, sev­eral cars drove slowly down Eng­land Cream­ery Road, com­ing to a near stop in front of the Horst’s house. Win­dows rolled down and peo­ple gazed at the farm.

“This hap­pens a lot,” Crys­tal ex­plained, adding that since word of their plans got out they have also had a few peo­ple knock on their door.

“Two of the three un­der­stand more. We were able to an­swer some of their ques­tions,” Crys­tal said.

As it turns out, Galen is fa­mil­iar with the chicken in­dus­try. He was raised in the Quar­ryville, Pa., area.

“We had a fam­ily farm. Then my dad bought a farm here when I was 6,” said Galen, the youngest of 12 chil­dren. “I have brothers in the chicken busi­ness.”

Per­due, through Cole­man, its or­ganic chicken la­bel, is look­ing for more farm­ers to take on these op­er­a­tions. The Meck farm on Route 213 in Ear­leville is home to two 63-by-700 foot chicken houses.

“They had a meet­ing for lo­cal farm­ers,” Galen said.

Al­ready fa­mil­iar with the in­dus­try, Galen liked the idea and Crys­tal did as well.

“It was some­thing we thought would be a great as- set, to keep it in the fam­ily,” she said.

The plan is to have the chil­dren in­volved in the dayto-day op­er­a­tions. Feed­ing and wa­ter­ing would be au­to­mated, but the fam­ily would mon­i­tor the flocks and main­tain the build­ings.

“A lot of peo­ple are con­cerned about the noise of the fans, but they’re quiet,” Crys­tal said.

Chicken ma­nure is dry, not wet be­cause of the lit­ter, which is fluffed to aid the dry­ing process. Like most live­stock, there are odors, but Galen said chicken odor is min­i­mal in most cases.

“We’ll com­post in­side the houses and we’ll use some of it, but not all of it,” he added.

Un­like cow ma­nure, which is 92 per­cent liq­uid, Ferguson said chicken ma­nure is more man­age­able and less nox­ious.

“It’s a much cleaner op­er­a­tion,” he said.

Their best man­age­ment prac­tices rule­book gov­erns when and how the ma­nure can be spread and trans­ported.

“Peo­ple have no idea how much chicken ma­nure passes through this county,” Galen said. “They usu­ally go big at night, which is the best time to trans­port.”

As for the wa­ter tables, Galen said the chick­ens would take less wa­ter than his cows.

“The amount of wa­ter was blown way out of pro­por­tion,” he said. “If there was even a re­mote pos­si­bil­ity (of dam­age to the wa­ter ta­ble), I don’t think Ce­cil County would have al­lowed it.”

Ferguson said dairy op­er­a­tions are more no­tice­able to neigh­bors than the poul­try houses would be, from the wa­ter ta­ble stand­point as well.

“Dairy farms use enor­mous amounts of wa­ter and it’s more dif­fi­cult to con­trol the ma­nure,” Ferguson said. “As far as con­trol of odor or waste, it’s as­tro­nom­i­cally better in a poul­try op­er­a­tion.”

“If they are go­ing or­ganic they can’t put as many birds in the house,” he said, adding or­ganic meth­ods in­clude other com­po­nents such as out­door ac­cess.

The dairy op­er­a­tion has been scaled back to rais­ing cus­tom heifers for oth­ers. Both Galen and Crys­tal see the fu­ture — and the fu­ture of their chil­dren — in the or­ganic, free- range poultr y op­er­a­tion.

“Farm­ing is hard work and ded­i­ca­tion,” Crys­tal said. “We’re blessed to be here and raise our chil­dren on this farm.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CCSO

A sup­port­ive res­i­dent left this note and flag on the wind­shield of a Ce­cil County Sher­iff’s Of­fice deputy’s pa­trol car.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JANE BELLMYER

The Horsts own Zion Acres Farm on Eng­land Cream­ery Road in Zion. While they have farmed the 220 acres for 13 years, Galen comes from a farm­ing lin­eage and has fam­ily in Mary­land and Penn­syl­va­nia who also farm.

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