Integration of Pastured Poultry Production Into the Farming Systems of Limited Resource Farmers
Limited resource farmers in the USA need profitable farm enterprise alternatives to survive on the farm. In this project, Heifer Project International (HPI) and numerous collaborators gave limited resource farmers the opportunity to test a relatively new farm enterprise that is both economically and environmentally sound. That enterprise is pastured poultry. Pastured poultry is an endeavor in which broiler chickens (in this case) are raised on pasture in pens that are moved across the pasture daily. The chickens receive sunlight, fresh grass and fresh air everyday and are usually processed on the farm. No antibiotics are required in the feed. The system is healthy for the livestock, builds the soil with manure from the chickens, and provides the farmer with a decent return from this value added product.
1.) Provide hands-on training in pastured poultry production to twenty-four farm families who are currently
members of farmer organizations supported by Heifer Project International.
We exceeded this objective; 213 families were trained.
2.) Review and summarize federal and state laws regarding on-farm processing of poultry. This was done
for the 13 southern states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
3.) Provide training in food safety and legal issues for the same twenty-four families and to assist them in
complying with the laws in their state. This was done for all 213 families.
4.) Provide training in market development of farm products for the same farmers. This was done for all
5.) Help these 24 families conduct on-farm practical trials of pastured poultry and its integration with their
other farm enterprises. This was done for 54 of the 213 families who participated in the comprehensive
6.) Include at least eight technical advisors (county extension agents or advisors from other local
organizations) in the training program so they are prepared to support and encourage these families and
others in the community. We exceeded this objective. We provided training to 39 technical advisors.
7.) Develop and implement monitoring systems that will provide useful information (income generation,
pasture management, farm labor management, quality of life implications, farmer observations and
problems) about integrating pastured poultry into a farming system. This was done. The results will be
published by NCAT/ATTRA in case-study booklet form in December 1999.
8.) Provide follow-up guidance and assistance to the families as they diversify their own production and
marketing. This was done throughout the life of the project, and it will be continued through HPI’s
normal supportive work with local farmer groups.
9.) Aid in the development of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA), which will
serve these farmers and others around the country by providing a forum to share information and ideas
related to pastured poultry. In 1997 we established and incorporated APPPA as a non-profit, 501(c)(6),
trade association. It now has almost 500 members in 45 US states, Antigua, Australia, and Canada.
A key component of this project was comprehensive training for farm families and extensionists in all aspects of the pastured poultry enterprise: production, processing and marketing. We conducted eight major training workshops: three in Kentucky; two in Virginia (at the Salatin Family’s Polyface Farm); and one each in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Two hundred and thirteen farm families and 39 technical advisors participated in these events. Participants built chicken pens, moved the pens, learned about brooding the chicks, butchered chickens, received instruction in food safety and legal issues, learned marketing techniques, and learned how to complete the required record books.
After completing training, the farmers who chose to continue in this program were given funds to do a small scale version of pastured poultry on their own farms. With the funds each farmer built a pen, and purchased 100 chicks, a feeder and a waterer. Upon receiving their checks, each farmer also signed a contract to “pass on the gift.” Passing on the gift is a Heifer Project tradition in which everyone who receives a gift of animals becomes a donor. In this case each farmer who received funds to start the poultry project was required to return to Heifer Project the purchase price of the chicks and to train another farmer in their area in the pastured poultry enterprise.
In signing the contract, the farmers also agreed to monitor their activities in record books provided to them. The record books included an expense and income log, a folder for receipts, a log to record total pounds of feed used, a daily calendar to record particular activities or occurrences, an information page on pasture management, a detailed labor summary, questions about the family’s values and how this project impacted the quality of life for themselves and their community, and a page on farmer observations and problems.
Fifty-four families chose to fully participate in and take advantage of this whole program. This significantly exceeded our original goal of 24 families.
The National Center for Agricultural Law Research and Information (NCALRI) prepared a legal review of federal and state laws concerning on-farm processing and marketing of poultry in all 13 states and the two territories in the Southern Region. This review will be expanded to include all 50 states as part of the second SARE-funded project we began in 1999: “Enhancing Feasibility for Range Poultry Expansion.”
As original collaborators, Kentucky State University and Southern University demonstrated Pastured Poultry throughout the term of this project, and provided numerous opportunities for farmers and extensionists to learn more about this enterprise.
Fort Valley State University in Georgia and Florida A&M University joined this initiative in 1997 and actively demonstrated Pastured Poultry during 1998. Both of these institutions hosted Pastured Poultry training workshops in January 1999.
The results to date have been very encouraging. Through the four growing seasons completed (1996-1999), 213 limited-resource farmers have received training and 54 of them tested pastured poultry on their own farms with assistance from this SARE grant. Most have been very pleased with the results of their work and several have expanded their operations or plan to in the future. In most cases, farmers are finding a good market for the chickens and see pastured poultry as a viable component of their farms.
In addition to the farmers who actually received SARE funds to try the enterprise, many other farmers have received just the training portion of the program and some have gone on to start enterprises on their own. In addition to the formal training sessions provided by this project, the participants and collaborators have made numerous presentations at agricultural conferences, workshops and field days throughout the South and around the country. Pastured Poultry is now on the agenda of nearly every educational event focused on sustainable agriculture.
Our outreach to farm families in other parts of the country also continues to grow. The American Pastured Poultry Producers Association (APPPA) was organized in January 1997 under the guidance of a Steering Committee of nine producers, and it was incorporated later that year. Since then, APPPA has published 10 issues of its quarterly newsletter, “APPPA Grit!”, and grown to almost 500 dues-paying members.
Likewise, the demand for ATTRA’s services related to Pastured Poultry has surged. In 1996-99, requests for their general publication on Sustainable Chicken Production averaged four times higher than in 1995. They also received more than three times as many specific questions about poultry in these years, compared to the number received in 1995.
Pastured poultry is a sustainable livestock production system that complements other farm enterprises very well. It is good for the people, the land and the livestock. It encourages local food economies and puts more of the food dollar into the hands of farmers. It builds bridges between producers and consumers. It has the potential to keep many more family farmers on their farms.
Heifer Project International
3224 Alani Drive
Honolulu, HI 96822
Office Phone: 8089882729
Kentucky State University
Office Phone: 5025645871
Office Phone: 5014429824
Southern University and A & M College
Office Phone: 5047712262
Office Phone: 5408853590