Small-Scale Poultry Production: Sustainability Training

2006 Annual Report for ES05-080

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2005: $129,530.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Steven Muntz
Heifer International

Small-Scale Poultry Production: Sustainability Training


Building from a comprehensive three day small-scale poultry production training held in Arkansas in the fall of 2005, three regional project teams, one in Kentucky, one in Texas and the other in Mississippi/Alabama conducted one to two day trainings on pastured poultry enterprises for farmer educators. A total of 36 farmer educators from 1862 and 1890 universities, Tuskegee University, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, state departments of Agriculture, World Hunger Relief and the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network participated in the trainings. Pre and post workshop evaluations from two of the workshops indicated that both the content and format of the regional trainings were effective. Regional trainings then led to three local trainings that were facilitated by participants in the regional trainings.

Also, as a direct result of this project the NCAT/ATTRA sustainable poultry website ( was updated to provide easier access to information and to include new information generated from trainings. In addition the project resulted in translation of the NCAT/ATTRA publication: “Alternative Poultry Production Systems” into Spanish.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Objective 1: Design a training program in sustainable poultry production for use in training educators in small commercial poultry production.
Objective 2: Increase agricultural educator knowledge and skills to train small-scale poultry producers by providing sustainable poultry production training and encourages supportive attitudes towards small poultry growers.
Objective 3: Develop web-based sustainable poultry production education modules as an ongoing resource for educators in order to add small-scale poultry to their programs.


Building from the comprehensive three day small-scale poultry training event that was held in Arkansas in 2005, project teams in Kentucky, Texas and Mississippi/Alabama planned and carried out one-two day training events for farmer educators in their own states. The Kentucky training took place at the Kentucky State University research farm and included topics on poultry production systems, health and bio-safety, egg production, food safety and processing, marketing and a producer case study. Participants had the opportunity to see Kentucky’s Mobile Processing Unit in operation. Nine extension agents and four Kentucky Department of Agriculture educators participated in the Kentucky event.

The Mississippi/Alabama project team held training at Cacklebery Farms in Prairie, Mississippi. Topics included: What is Pastured Poultry and Why Promote it?, State Processing Regulations, Marketing and processing at the Federal level, and Coordinating Pastured Poultry Producer Trainings. In addition there was a tour of Cackleberry farms and Pastured Poultry Producer stations were set up featuring producers sharing their own experiences with pastured poultry. Seven extension educators from Mississippi and Alabama 1862, 1890 universities and Tuskegee were participants as well as three NRCS participants, two participants from the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and the Director of the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network. In addition, eleven producers participated in this workshop. A key component of the workshop was the session during which producers and farmer educators jointly planned future local producer trainings.

The Texas training was held on March 27 and 28, 2007 in and near College Station, Texas. Two full days were spent learning about pastured poultry, raw milk dairying, and organic vegetable production. Mornings were dedicated to classroom presentation and discussion. First day topics covered included Pastured Poultry 101 and Marketing the Finished Product, State Processing Regulations, and Promoting Pastured Poultry to your Producers. An afternoon tour of Sandcreek Farm near Calvert, TX highlighted the integration of pastured poultry, raw milk dairy, and horse powered farming. Second day topics included Why Organic, Organic Certification (How-to), Transitioning to Organic, and Marketing the Product, mostly from a Farmers Market viewpoint. A tour of Home Sweet Farm outside Brenham, TX filled the afternoon with sights of fresh organic vegetables, chickens, geese, and ducks on all sides of the gardens and cleaning up garden plots for future planting. All the poultry was used for insect and weed control to some degree. Approximately 25 people attended each day, though the mix was different each day. Eight extension educators from 1890 and 1862 universities were participants as well as two NRCS participants, six NGO educators and 9 producers.

Two of the regional training of trainers events then led to localized trainings led by participants in the regional trainings. Local trainings took place in Perry County, Alabama, Bolivar County, Mississippi and Clay County, Kentucky. The Perry County workshop was done with a Heifer Project Partner Group* (the Perry County Small Farmers Association) that has pastured poultry as a component of its project with Heifer International. The workshop included topics on pastured poultry management and farm enterprise planning. It provided practical training and utilized some of the resources highlighted at the Mississippi training. The Bolivar County workshop was also conducted with a Heifer Project Partner Group (The Mississippi Delta Agricultural Farmers Network). The training focused on new entry producers with an emphasis on constructing pastured poultry pens designed by the Wages of Calceterra Farms in Tupelo, Mississippi. The workshop was co-sponsored by the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. The Clay County Kentucky Training was conducted with a developing Heifer Project Partner Group (The Women Farmers of Appalachia) that is interested in including pastured poultry in their project plan. The main purpose was to give the group’s poultry demonstration participants an overview of pastured broiler production and to answer questions from participants and the community about pastured broiler production.

Additional local trainings are scheduled to take place at Zion Farms in Pontotoc, Mississippi, at Alcorn State University’s Small Farm Demonstration Center in Preston, Mississippi, in Marion County, Mississippi, and in Bessemer, Alabama.

The participants in this program have been able to accomplish all work well within the budget guidelines, with the result that the project has been extended for one more year and new trainings have been added to the list for 2007. Farmer-educator trainings are now planned for North and South Carolina and Arkansas. Two local producer trainings have been added. One of these will be an expansion of the Clay County, Kentucky training held this year. The other new workshop will be held in El Paso, Texas. These trainings will be led by participants in previous farmer-educator workshops.

The project has been successful in continuing to provide valuable information regarding small scale poultry production and to make existing information more user-friendly. The following presentations are available to download from the Sustainable poultry website ( 1. Alternative Poultry Production 2. Breeders, Layers and Hatching Egg Production 3. Consumer Issues 4. Direct Marketing Pastured Poultry 5. Food Safety: Microbiology, Sanitation and HACCP 6. Organic Poultry: Markets and Production 7. Poultry Nutrition and Feeding 8. Range Poultry Entrepreneurship 9. Range Production and Bird Health 10. Small-Scale Table Egg Quality and Processing 11. Specialty and Small-Scale Poultry Processing 12. Specialty Breeds for Natural and Organic Poultry Production and 13. Avian Influenza Update and Disease Prevention.

In addition, a previous SARE-developed publication, Poultry Processing Facilities Available for use by Independent Producers in the Southern Region, is now updated and available as a database called Small Poultry Processing Plants and Services. The database is available at

The project has also begun the process of translating key small scale poultry production documents into Spanish. During 2006, one publication, Alternative Poultry Production Systems, was translated into Spanish. In 2007 at least one additional publication will be translated.

*A Heifer Project Partner Group is a community based group generally comprised of small and limited resource farmers that has developed an agricultural project designed to improve food security and livelihoods in the community. Projects that are approved by Heifer International receive funding for implementation of the project.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Participants in two of the regional farmer-educator trainings were provided both pre and post training evaluation forms. Ten participants at the Kentucky training and fourteen participants at the Mississippi completed both forms. Overall results of these evaluations are summarized below. Summarized evaluation results from the Texas Training were not available at the time of this report.

Kentucky training: The training was evaluated positively by participants, and it appears that both content and format was effective overall. Future trainings should include more information on business planning and feasibility analysis, enterprise budgets, poultry nutrition, and practical step by step production information, in particular. Overall, all topic sessions covered in this training were rated as being useful to participants and to their producer-clients. Most useful to trainees were the sessions on why raise pastured poultry and poultry processing. Participants rated the sessions on alternative poultry production systems and the producer case study as least useful for them. However, the sessions on poultry health and biosecurity, alternative production systems, and why raise pastured poultry were rated most useful for trainees’ producer-clients. Least useful for producer-clients were the sessions on egg regulations, marketing, and the field systems visit.

Mississippi training: The training was evaluated positively by participants, and it appears that both content and format was effective overall. Future trainings should include more information on processing, marketing, and equipment. It appears that producers in the training area are somewhat interested in small-scale poultry production. Overall, this training seems to have been effective in increasing knowledge of small-scale and alternative poultry production and marketing. However, interest in small-scale poultry production appeared to drop slightly after the training. Participants ranked their knowledge of specific topics covered in the training, and average scores were higher for every topic after the training. Participants also ranked the usefulness of specific topics to their producer-clients higher after the training. Participants were also interested in local follow-up events that were planned as part of the training.

A more useful indicator of the value of the farmer-educator trainings is the effectiveness of the local producer trainings held subsequently to the farmer-educator trainings. After the local training in Kentucky, two group members went on to raise 50 broiler chickens each for home consumption. Production and processing went well. Several other members of the group participated in one of two processing days and brought home some top quality poultry meat for their assistance.

One local training that was planned in Lineville, Alabama did not materialize due to delays in upgrading the processing facility and the lack of a coherent group to pursue the training. Another opportunity in Alabama did arise with the Perry County Small Farmers Association. This training went well and resulted in one new producer and increased interest from several other group members.

The local training in Bolivar County, Mississippi with the Mississippi Delta Agricultural Farmers Network was very well received and ten new producers are planning small scale poultry production during the 2007 growing season.

While it is difficult to know exactly how much of the information developed from this project and now available on the sustainable poultry website has actually been downloaded and utilized, we do have an indicator of the relevance of the information based on the number of hits and visits to The site currently gets about 25 visits per day or nearly 9000 per year.

Several other direct and indirect impacts have occurred as a result of the project this past year. There is increased awareness and understanding about small scale poultry production among extension, NRCS and other agricultural educators across all three states. In Alabama, the NRCS now provides cost sharing for pastured poultry production as a conservation measure. Networking between and among producers and farmer educators has built new relationships, created mentor pastured poultry producers and increased producer cooperation.

While we are seeing some good impact from the trainings, it is also important to recognize that pastured poultry does not really seem to be catching on in some areas. Some indicators of this are that after the Mississippi/Alabama farmer educator training, interest in pastured poultry production actually dropped slightly. In addition Heifer International’s Field Coordinator in Alabama noted that “Despite support at the highest levels of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and efforts to bring in extension agents at the local level, no local extension agents came to the Mississippi workshop or follow up workshops, which made it hard to build long-term, practical extension-producer relationships in this arena.” He goes on to say “I believe that the lack of local extension involvement in the trainings is due in large part to a lack of producer interest to spur them on. Reasons Alabama farmers have cited for not wanting to get involved in small-scale, sustainable poultry production vary widely, and include the high level of management required, lack of familiarity with or interest in poultry, restrictive state laws about processing and distribution, rising costs of feed and gas, and frustrations with the USDA inspected processing facility just over the Mississippi border. These are all factors to consider and address as new trainings are planned for the coming year.


Ginger Deason

[email protected]
Coastal Plains Field Coordinator
Heifer International
2319 Stevens Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27610
Gus Heard-Hughes

[email protected]
Alabama Field Coordinator
Heifer International
2106 2nd Avenue
Irondale , AL 35210
Office Phone: 2059560088
Anne Fanatico

[email protected]
Research Associate/Graduate Student
University of Arkansas
Center for Excellence in Poultry Science
126o West Maple Street
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Office Phone: 4792633950
Steve Schrock

[email protected]
Cackleberry Farms
10107 Prairie Mills Road
Prairie, MS 39756
Office Phone: 6623694151
Frank Jones

[email protected]
Extension Poultry Specialist, Section Leader
University of Arkansas
Center for Excellence in Poultry Science
1260 West Maple St.
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Office Phone: 4795757118
Holly Born

[email protected]
Programs Specialist
National Center for Appropriate Technology
53020 Hitchcock Avenue
Lewis, IA 51544
Office Phone: 7127692604
Michael Ashanti

[email protected]
Heifer International
1004 Porter Street
Helena, AR 72342
Office Phone: 5012556955
Rhonda Everman

[email protected]
Heifer International
25 Sterling Way, Suite A
Mt. Sterling, KY 40353
Office Phone: 8594970603
Jeff Dombroskas

[email protected]
Appalachia Field Coordinator
Heifer International
2425 Greer Lane
Mt. Sterling, KY 40353
Office Phone: 8594970742
Matt John

[email protected]
Shady Lane Poultry Farm
520 Agawam Rd.
Winchester, KY 40391
Office Phone: 8597372636
Craig Hertel

[email protected]
Blackwater Farms
RR1, Box 269
Daleville, MS 39326
Office Phone: 6015275143
Mike Walters

[email protected]
Walters Hatchery
Office Phone: 9187783535
Jesse Strassburg

[email protected]
Heifer International
302 South Bolivar
Cleveland, MS 38732
Office Phone: 6628433870
Mike Everett

[email protected]
Southwest Field Coordinator
Heifer International
POB 86
Cactus, TX 79013
Office Phone: 8069664112
Tom Dierolf

[email protected]
Heifer International
212 S. Broad St., Ste C
Brevard, NC 2871
Office Phone: 8288625534