Friday, June 8, 2012

Farm Women Friday: Making our Farm a Better Place

Welcome back to Farm Women Fridays!
This week, we’re meeting someone who literally grew up on my block, Christy Brown. Heck, we even rode the same bus to school. Like many farm women, Christy has been involved in agriculture since she was a child. She grew up on a poultry farm and began showing horses when she was five years old. She was a member of a local 4-H club and raised, showed, and sold market lambs and goats as part of her 4-H projects. In high school, she was active in her FFA chapter, even competing at the national level.
Christy knew she wanted to stay involved in ag – she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Agronomy and went on to work as a Soil Conservationist. She works with other farmers to write Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans for their farms. She’s also stayed involved as a member of the Young Farmers + Ranchers division of the Farm Bureau, Delmarva Poultry Industry, the Delaware Quarter Horse Association, and the American Quarter Horse Association.
How does she have time to actually farm? Yeah, I have no idea. But she’s making it work.
Christy and her husband Ben currently operate a grain + poultry farm in Caroline County, MD.  In addition to tilling about 50 acres, they grow roaster chickens for a local chicken processor. Roasters stay in the chicken houses for about 9 weeks to reach full size. They typically are growing 33,000 chickens per flock rotation, and grow 4-5 flocks per year.
They grow their birds in a temperature controlled poultry house, where the birds have unlimited access to feed and water. There are no antibiotics or hormones in the feed, which is supplied by the contract company. Christy sums it up nicely, “The poultry company and we as a grower are constantly doing our best to provide the most optimum conditions on our farms for the birds because not only does the consumer want a healthy bird, but we benefit from growing one.”
Christy says they try to run their operation every day with thoughts of what they can do to make their farm a better place and protect the natural resources around it. Did you know that every Maryland farm that makes at least $2500 through their operations, or produces the equivalent of 8,000 pounds of meat annually, is required to follow a Nutrient Management Plan? (Other states may differ). Christy is actually employed by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service to write Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (a more detailed version for larger farms).
So what is a Nutrient Management Plan (NMP)? As explained by Christy, NMPs detail how much organic nutrients and commercial fertilizer a farmer can apply to his (or her!) land. The amounts are based on soil tests and help farmers figure out just how much chemicals/fertilizer/manure they need to get the best crops, without over-applying.
The Browns also participate in the conservation cover crop program. Planting cover crop each year is very important to help prevent soil erosion and keep nutrients from leaching off the farm. Their goal is to go above and beyond to keep our local bays and watersheds clean and healthy.
Christy says she loves what she does. Talking with her, it’s easy to see that she’s very passionate about the farm. In her words, “I cannot think of any other way that I’d want to raise a family someday.”
Thanks, Christy! Next week, we’ll be meeting a farmer who operates her own produce stand in Delaware.

Farm Women Fridays is a series of interviews that will run through the summer of 2012. If you have any questions (for me or the other women), please leave them in the comments! You can see all the Farm Women Fridays posts here.

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