Hay, Factories and Factory Farms

Our wet summer has rewarded us with lush pastures and hayfields.  I don’t normally cut hay in the fall, preferring to allow the land to rest.  But we came up a little short in the spring so last Thursday I mowed one of our fields. Yesterday I raked and baled it.  It produced 3 1/2 times more hay than we got in the spring.  It’s good to have it in the barn.

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But before I could get it there we had to stop and go attend a meeting at our local Ag Center, which was promoting locating a Poultry Processing Complex in our county.  This complex would consist of a 200 acre processing facility at which 1.25 millions chickens would be slaughtered and processed every week, a 25-50 acre feed mill on a rail line to create feed from grain shipped in from the Midwest, and a 15 acre hatchery.  To produce the chickens there would be 550 industrial “poultry houses,” each of which would hold 20,000 birds or more at a time.

The meeting was conducted by a team of consultants who are supposedly preparing a feasibility study on the project. But they acknowledged that their job is to prepare a report that would be used to attract a poultry company, not to do an unbiased, objective analysis of feasibility.

We attended and spoke against the project of course.  The meeting was sparsely attended and I doubt anything we said will make a difference.  It was a foregone conclusion when these guys were hired that they will conclude that our community is a favorable location for factory farms and a massive chicken factory. Of course that is the exact opposite direction from where we believe agriculture should be going.  It is ultimately unsustainable and an eventual disaster on many levels.

After the meeting we returned home and with the help of a friend we got up hay until nearly 11 p.m. last night.

I can’t help feeling a little sad for my community today.  It’s a beautiful place and I dream of seeing it dotted with hundreds of diversified, sustainable farms, rather than factories and hundreds of chicken hells.

Now we have another fight ahead of us, and this time it seems we’ll have fewer allies.

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But nature has painted another beautiful autumn.  And we have plenty of hay in the barn for winter.