By Priyanka Pathak, Compassion in World Farming (intern)
Last week, Darby Farm’s Daniel Dover hosted the first Georgia Pastured Poultry Association meeting on a sunny spring day in Good Hope, Georgia. The group is setting out to build a farmers’ cooperative that will facilitate resource sharing, build unity, and support the needs of up-and-coming pasture poultry farmers. Sixteen enthusiastic farmers drove from across the state to partake in the gathering. Leah Garces, USA Director, and I, a graduate student intern, also participated as representatives of the international animal welfare organization Compassion in World Farming (CIWF). Two rather interested chickens and three surprisingly affectionate kittens also attended the meeting.
Several of the most pressing challenges faced by small farmers were discussed, mostly relating to unfavorable state laws and the lack of infrastructure in the State.
One issue that deeply concerned the farmers was the absence of accessible independent USDA-inspected processing plant for poultry in Georgia (See previous blog by Jennifer Owens). Additionally, farmers essentially cannot conduct on-farm processing and then sell the meat if they raise between 1,000 and 20,000 birds, due to a confusing and obstructive set of state regulations. The majority of farmers at the meeting fell within this range. These regulations also do not provide such farmers with any alternative options. This has become one of the greatest barrier preventing these farmers from participating in the local economy.
As a solution, Georgia Organics, Compassion in World Farming, and members of this farmers’ association are joining forces to investigate alternatives to the processing plant accessibility issue by looking into for legal, humane, and cost-effective broiler chicken slaughter. In the meantime, farmers at the meeting discussed pooling resources to transport their birds to processing plants in the neighboring state of North Carolina. However, for many small farmers, this may still prove to be a cost prohibitive option due to gas prices and the cost of slaughter.
Growers also discussed the possibility of selling under a cooperative label in future. The hope is to create a common identity under which consumers and chefs alike could chose a Georgia pasture raised product. Certainly from a humane and sustainable perspective, we hope it is not too long before we see a Georgia Pastured Poultry Association logo on the shelves and menus.
For a copy of the bylaws or for further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.