Poul­try farm­ers dis­cuss in­dus­try at fes­ti­val

The Kent Island Bay Times - - News - By HANNAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­times.com

WYE MILLS — Mod­er­at­ing a panel dis­cus­sion of poul­try farm­ers at the Ch­e­sa­peake Stor ytelling Fes­ti­val, Sept. 16 at Ch­e­sa­peake Col­lege, was Jenny Rhodes, Queen Anne’s Univer­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion Ser­vice se­nior agent and ed­u­ca­tor.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing on the panel were grow­ers, Ashley Brown from Hur­lock, Dorch­ester County; An­drew McClain, grower and past pres­i­dent of the Del­marva Poul­try In­dus­try and for­mer banker; and Span­gler “Buzz” Klopp, a re­tired vet­eri­nar­ian for the poul­try in­dus­try from Lewes, Delaware.

The fes­ti­val — which brings in sto­ry­tellers from around the coun­try — also of­fers lo­cals an op­por­tu­nity to share from their ex­pe­ri­ences here on the Eastern Shore.

Rhodes, who is a past pres­i­dent of DPI (a trade as­so­ci­a­tion for the chicken in­dus­try), works to help farm­ers prob­lem solve and iden­tify re­sources and pro­grams avail­able in the state.

The ses­sion was more in­for­ma­tive than sto­ry­telling, but Rhodes re­lated the in­dustr y had its ori­gins when in 1926 a woman by the name of Steele or­dered 50 chick­ens for her per­sonal farm and re­ceived in er­ror 500 birds.

Those first broil­ers (smaller chick­ens raised for meat) sold for 62 cents per pound of live weight, said Rhodes. Present day there are more than 1,200 farm fam­i­lies on the shore now, with 11 mil­lion chick­ens pro­duced per week.

The in­dus­try re­ally is the back­bone of the econ­omy on the Eastern Shore, said Rhodes, with the com­bi­na­tion of chicken grow­ers, grain pro­duc­ers, and al­lied busi­nesses.

Klopp shared his be­gin­nings in the poul­try in the in­dus­try when in 1968 the state of Mary­land had an agree­ment with Ge­or­gia to send MD res­i­dents to Ge­or­gia for vet­eri­nary school at the state rate of $442 tuition per year. He grad­u­ated in 1972 and con­tin­ued to use his skills in the poul­try in­dus­try be­fore re­tir­ing.

The pan­elists shared sev­eral of the con­cerns that face mod­ern day poul­try farm­ers such as dis­ease, nat­u­ral disas­ter, and the econ­omy. It is an adap­tive in­dus­try, but one that is also com­pet­i­tive, said McClain. Ex­plain­ing the tour­na­ment sys­tem by which fi­nal pay is de­ter­mined based on (bird) weight of farms set­tling (birds sent out for sale) the same week.

“It is a com­pet­i­tive market, but that com­pe­ti­tion is what keeps the ball rolling,” said McClain.

There is also the added re­spon­si­bil­ity of man­ag­ing nu­tri­ents pro­duced by poul­try farm­ers, the panel dis­cussed, weigh­ing in on best man­age­ment prac­tices and nu­tri­ent man­age­ment. Nu­tri­ents that were not pre­vi­ously con­sid­ered a pol­lu­tant, now must be care­fully mon­i­tored.

How­ever, chicken lit­ter is much sought af­ter prod­uct, agreed Rhodes and McClain; a good nat­u­ral re­source — a lo­cally pro­duced, slow re­leased fer­til­izer, quipped Rhodes.

Be­cause of these new pro­cesses, chicken houses are no longer com­pletely cleaned out on a yearly ba­sis, but are now nat­u­rally com­posted be­tween flocks within the houses.

The ma­nure sheds — used to house the com­posted lit­ter — are still the safest place on the farm, joked McClain, adding that if he had to ride out a hur­ri­cane, you would find him there, be­cause it is such an im­per­vi­ously built struc­ture.

Poul­try farm­ers have an in­nate con­nec­tion with their re­sources and re­cy­cle ev­ery­thing, agreed the panel; it is about creat­ing a syn­ergy and for most main­tain­ing a fam­ily tra­di­tion and busi­ness.

Said Brown, she and her fam­ily know first hand about hard­ships on a farm, her fa­ther passed away af­ter an ac­ci­dent oc­curred on their farm, leav­ing her and her mother to man­age where he left off. “We are a fam­ily farm,” said Brown, “run by women ... it [the re­spon­si­bil­ity] is on us.”

McClain said when he was 5 years old he had dreamed of be­com­ing an In­dian, he was very dis­ap­pointed to learn that was not to be. He then de­cided on be­com­ing an or­nithol­o­gist (one who stud­ies birds), “it’s funny how that worked out,” he joked.

For Rhodes, a life-long res­i­dent of Queen Anne’s, farm­ing is what she al­ways wanted to do, she said.

A panel of poul­try farm­ers at the Ch­e­sa­peake Sto­ry­telling Fes­ti­val on Sept. 16 in­cludes Ashley Brown of Dorch­ester County and An­drew McClain, Queen Anne’s County.

PHO­TOS BY HANNAH COMBS

Jenny Rhodes, chicken grower and Univer­sity of Mary­land ex­ten­sion ser­vice se­nior agent and ed­u­ca­tor, mod­er­ates the panel of poul­try farm­ers at the Ch­e­sa­peake Sto­ry­telling Fes­ti­val on Sept. 16.

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