Launching a Maryland small farms poultry processing and marketing group

2012 Annual Report for ONE12-167

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,760.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Ginger Myers
University of Maryland Extension

Launching a Maryland small farms poultry processing and marketing group


A team of farmers- Tom Reynolds, Tom Albright, and Steve Weber- with assistance from University of Maryland Extension Marketing Specialist, Ginger Myers, formed a poultry processing and marketing group that provides its poultry-producing members with a safe, sanitary, environmentally sound, legal and convenient means of processing. The group is making group purchases of chicks, marketing materials, and some feedstocks. In addition to individual farm sales, members are pursuing aggregating their birds to supply larger volume sales such as to schools, hospital, and buying clubs.

The project ‘s primary goal is to provide processing and marketing services to a least 10-12 approved and licensed, sustainable poultry producing farms in Maryland during the first full year of operation and expanding to 15 farms by a second year.

Objectives/Performance Targets

April- Meeting with Weber, Albright, and Reynolds at Reynolds to review grant tasks and to plan first membership event. Meeting at the Baltimore County Extension Office- Albright, Myers, Baldwin, Weber and State Vet-Michael Radebaugh to work out language about members renting facility- not custom processing. Albright becomes licensed poultry transporter. Weber coordinates work on membership form, HACCP plans, SOP for Reynolds plant.

First membership meeting at Tom Reynolds- lite meal, tour of processing plant, explanation of the group forming- 37 attendees, 3 feed companies, two farm-oriented papers give news coverage.

May- Central Maryland Poultry Producers Group webpages launched –
Logo and marketing materials developed, website content, mission, chick ordering form, processing info, membership form, contact information.
5-23-1012- First group processing run- 4 Producers and 400 birds
5-29-2012- First group purchase of chicks- 500
June- First group purchase of chicks (chicks arrive second Tuesday of the month and are processed every 7 weeks). Develop potential volume purchaser’s lists.
Twilight Meeting at Tom Albrights- topic- Poultry Production and Whole Farm Management . 68 attended ( about 1/3 from April meeting all others new). Co-sponsored with Future Harvest CASA. Lite meal, tour of packaging facility, field visit to portable broiler pens. Poultry nutritionist from Pennfield feed spoke about breeds and feeds for layers and meat birds. Distribution of membership material
July- Finalize and produce marketing materials. Order turkey pults for members who produce birds for the holidays. Group chick order 800 chicks. First alert sent out through webpage that processing date would be moved back a week to account for heat slowing the growth of birds. Tom Reynolds represents the group at the Governor’s Buy Local Picnic and serves chickens dishes from member birds. 800 birds processed from 5 producers

August- Group chick order 1200 chicks. 850 birds processed from 6 producers. Small flock twilight meeting at Western Maryland Research and Education Center, topics pastured poultry and security issues.

September- Met with representatives from Baltimore area restaurants and catering services to develop product profile for their needs.

December- Member meeting and Project Progress report. Determine any changes to plans or program at this point in the project.


All project partners were involved in designing the membership criteria, membership forms, fee schedule, processing schedule, and producer contact list for recruitment. Develop project business plan and description of administrative duties. We had not anticipated the need for a website to make distribution of the information more manageable, but it did provide a “parking space” for all the info about joining the group and placing orders. It is a good addition to the outputs for the continuation of this project after the grant period.

Also, while each licensed farmer had a HACCP for their farm, the Maryland Department of Agriculture(MDA) required a new HACCP for the birds individual producers delivered and processed at Reynolds. It was a challenge to write a plant plan, but it was done and is part of each member’s packet now for MDA approval. The time to research and write the plan was an additional cost.

Throughout the summer a schedule was established for ordering chicks. The intent was to have the processing day always fall on the third Tuesday of the month. Because of the extreme heat of the summer and different skill levels in growing out birds, the farmers had to start moving the processing dates back by one to two weeks to make sure a majority of the birds were at a profitable processing weight. This did cause some angst for the smallest producers- had to hold their birds longer than they had planned. This would not have been such a major problem if the group were large enough to process more than once a month. Variations in the processing schedule need to be considered for the next full growing season.

Workshops and seminars have been well attended. They attract good audience, but mining memberships from the group has been slower than anticipated. However, three feed companies have been covering the cost of the lite meals at the event and want to help provide speakers and other educational materials. They see this group a future poultry feed buyers. Promote efforts through newsletters, press releases, farm field days, and meetings have generated continued interest in the project. Membership at the end of November was 8 farms with 3-4 more farmers interested in joining when processing begins again next spring. Two farmers have started a joint marketing effort direct to customers.

One goal the project will have to abandon is trying to initiate legislative changes to Maryland’s On-Farm Poultry Processing Regulations to allow Reynolds to process the birds without the owners being participating in the processing. The current legislation requires producers to participate in the processing of their own birds. Each farmer coming into the processing line actually slows processing time and increase expenses for Reynolds. However, if producers are not involved in processing as they are now by “renting the facility and equipment”, then the plant would have to file to become a USDA inspected facility. The Reynolds family does not want to take that route.

Processing ends with Thanksgiving turkeys at the Reynolds plant and growers will not be ordering chicks again until March. During this break, Reynolds, Albright, and Weber will be speaking about the project at winter conferences and meetings such as the Future Harvest-CASA annual conference and Maryland Farm Bureau Conference and there will be a display booth promoting the project at these events.

The farmers and the University of Maryland Marketing Specialist will be representing the group at Maryland’s Annual Buyer-Grower meeting in late January. This will provide an opportunity to make more marketing contacts with distributors and restaurants looking to source locally grown products.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The work in this project has been very participatory between the project farmers and Extension. They have developed a greater sense of ownership of the project and commitment to its success as they view their leadership as critical to its design and financial success.

This marketing group can also serve as a model for aggregating product and connecting to volume sales. Similar marketing efforts are needed in fruits and vegetables in the area as well to service the growing demand for locally grown food in the Baltimore-Washington Corridor.


Steve Weber

[email protected]
Webers Cider mill
2526 Procter Lane
Parkville, MD 21234
Office Phone: 4106684488
Thomas Albright

[email protected]
Farmer partner
15630 Old York Road
Monkaon, MD 21111
Office Phone: 4436908913
Tom Reynolds

[email protected]
Farmer Tom's Farm
427 Cockey's Mill road
Reisterstown, MD 21136
Office Phone: 4105266892