Free-range Poultry: Production and Marketing

Final Report for FNC95-118

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1995: $4,690.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1996
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


Locust Grove Farm is a 160 acre hill farm in Appalachian Ohio. We raise chicken and turkeys on range, without antibiotics or other additives. All the products are processed on the farm under an Ohio Department of Agriculture Poultry Processing exemption.

We sell meat and eggs direct to consumers and restaurants in our region. We encourage customers to purchase our products on the farm; however, we still deliver to a restaurant and to a buying club and continue to sell at a Farmer’s Market once a week spring through fall.

Within the past year we have diversified our operation and now produce and sell vegetables grown on soil enhanced with poultry manure which has been composted with a locally available product, hard wood chips. We have also added a milk cow and calf and are learning about managed intensive grazing.

Half of our farm is wooded and we have done Timber stand improvement and have planted several thousand trees with the intention of producing bent wood furniture and other wood products.

Before receiving this grant we produced free range poultry for four years. 1991 was the first year we were on our farm full time and the first time to raise any animals. That year our flock consisted of 50 dual purpose chickens and 50 Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys.

In 1992 we serendipitously started raising broiler chickens when 25 leftover 4-H chicks found a home on our farm. We studied Joel Salitan’s method of raising pastured poultry and felt that it was a confinement method on grass. We searched further and learned about European free range practices and also found information in Ohio State University Extension Archives about similar US practices during the first half of this century.

Prior to this grant we had gardened without the use of artificial pesticides or purchased fertilizer for 20 years.

The project goal was to produce a manual which would be useful to others interested in producing and direct marketing free range poultry. We wanted to document what we were doing and organize the information in a form that would be a useful resource to others with little or no previous experience; a stem to stern manual for starting and operating a free range poultry business.

We planned this project by looking over our operation and identifying the logical sequence of information that would enable folks to evaluate their own situation and make a decision about whether they should start a poultry operation.

The manual provides information to help a person decide several key issues: whether they have enough land, how to select the breeds of chickens and turkeys, how to construct equipment, how to improve pastures and fencing, how to arrange the processing plant, how to obtain equipment and necessary governmental approval, how to choose a marketing style and how to obtain publicity.

The people who were involved in this project are many. Several from Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Ohio State University, including Anu Rangarajan who located publication in the archives and assisted with publicity, Ben Stinner who conducted soil samples and gave advice about pasture management and verified that the system was working well for the soil, Mike Cote who was always available with encouragement and helped with field days and publicity, Ed Zaborski who also wrote publicity releases and offered encouragement and Deb Stinner who created the opportunity for us to attend Holistic Resource Management workshops.

In addition, state and federal agency employees provided advice and technical assistance: Bob Hendershot, NRCS Grazing Specialist; Bill Beckley, Ohio State University Extension Agent; Dot Riley, NRCS District Conservationist; and the Vinton Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors all contributed significantly to this project.

As a result of this grant the manual was completed and workshops and farm tours were conducted.

The advantage of this grant was that in preparing this manual we were forced to look at our operation more critically and focus on information necessary for a beginning farmer.

The disadvantage to us was that the time required for the preparation of the manual took time away from farming operations. For this reason we are grateful for the grant income to help cover those costs.

There is no way to evaluate the possible economic, social or environmental impacts of this project. However, we believe that the potential for positive changes in all of these parameters is enormous. If farmers convince their neighbors to buy food directly from the farm, and further, to become aware of sustainable practices, we will live in a better society.

While we cannot put a dollar amount on the value of this project the manual should help farmers economically by introducing: 1) an inexpensive system for production of healthy poultry on any type of land, 2) how to process poultry themselves with a reasonable investment in equipment, 3) how to eliminate middle men and, 4) how to obtain premium prices in the retail market place.

This method of raising poultry is perfect for a family farming operation with jobs for everyone, young or old. Free range poultry production also eliminates the concentration of manure associated with confinement operations.

We conducted two workshops at Innovative Farmers of Ohio annual meeting, January 1996, with a total attendance of 50. We presented information about out operation during a panel discussion at Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association annual meeting in March 1996, to an audience of 75. We conducted three farm tours for a total of 133 college students from Ohio University and Hocking College during the fall of 1995, and spring and fall 1996.

We also held two field days co-sponsored by Innovative Farmers of Ohio, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Vinton Soil and Water Conservation District, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

We have conducted tours for Home Schoolers, approximately 110 children and parents. Various hands on workshops were held (which covered everything in the manual) to a total of 57 people ages eight to eighty.

Our farm and out style of farming have been featured in many local and regional newspapers and magazines. Dozens of people have received hundreds of hours of our time as we stop our work to take a spontaneous visitor on a private tour; they then are subjected to our philosophy of sustainability. Local youth drop in to discuss farming and their love of rural life.

We are zealots about sustainability issues and will continue to impart the information which we have gleaned in the past six years of living and farming in rural Ohio. The manual will be advertised in Small Farmer’s Journal and Small Farm Today.

A complete How-To-Do-It manual is available for those unable to attend workshops, the title is Free-Range Poultry Production & Marketing: A Guide to Raising, Processing, and Marketing Premium Quality Chicken, Turkey & Eggs. The current price is $39.95 plus $5.00 shipping and handling.

The manual is available from:
Back Forty Books
26328 Locust Grove Road
Creola, OH 45622

The manual has been designed to be easily updated and as it is self-published any changes to future editions can be obtained and added to those purchased earlier.

We plan to publish a quarterly newsletter, Free-Range Poultry Forum, which will be a grower’s roundtable. Folks who are involved in this style of production will be encouraged to write to us about their experiences and with their questions.

Consulting and workshops will continue to be available, write to the above address for rates and times available.


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.