Get to Know Jenell, a Chicken Farmer from Maryland
For about 95% of chicken farmers in the United States, farming is a family business. That family tradition holds true for Jenell Eck and her family. Jenell is a 6th generation farmer and a senior at the University of Delaware, where she is working towards a double major in Agriculture and Natural Resources and Communications, with a minor in Environmental Soil Science. After graduating high school in 2014, Jenell attended her local community college to work on her general education while serving as the 2014 – 2015 Maryland FFA State President and later Miss Maryland Agriculture 2015. In 2015, Jenell was named Poultry Production Proficiency Gold Recipient through the National FFA Organization and received her American Degree in 2016. Jenell enjoys to travel the country to learn about the diversity of agriculture and in 2016 went to Costa Rica to do missionary work. She has also interned for the Maryland Department of Agriculture in the Marketing Office and the University of Maryland Extension Office in Queen Anne’s County. This summer, Jenell is communications intern with the National Chicken Council.
How did you get into chicken farming?
I grew up on my family’s poultry and grain farm in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland. My father built his first growout house in 1977 and today he has seven growout houses. My oldest brother also purchased a farm and built two growout houses. Together, as a family, we raise large broiler chickens in twelve houses. (Producing 1.3 million birds a year). I grew up working on the farm alongside my father and brother. I started with little jobs on the farm such as walking the houses, setting up houses and riding in equipment – and I have gained the responsibility to do more tasks on my own. Today I am able to care for the birds on my own and run most pieces of equipment.
What do you love about chicken farming?
I love that my family raises healthy birds for the public to purchase affordable chicken and feed their family. I also love being around the birds – they are very interesting animals and being with them everyday allows you to see their different characteristics. It is a good reminder that everyone and everything is different.
What’s your least favorite thing about chicken farming?
One thing that I dislike about raising chickens is the many challenges and regulations put on our industry. I understand the importance of regulations, but some regulations can be very burdensome and costly for farmers.
What’s one thing about chicken farming you wish more people would know?
I wish people understood the amount of work that goes into raising each chicken. Behind that bird is a story, a story about a farmer. Every chicken farmer is different and unique, and faces different challenges in their life. Farmers spend a lot of time raising their birds by ensuring the houses are maintained and that the birds have the proper amount of food and water, a comfortable and healthy environment, good ventilation and so much more. We care a lot about the flock – it’s our livelihood and it’s the right thing to do.
Why did you decide to intern with the National Chicken Council?
In the past few years, I have been trying to figure out my career path. I honestly love being on the farm and working, it is a job like no other. Each day you wake up with a plan and it can change within seconds – it keeps me on my toes! Fortunately my brother and father are successfully carrying on this tradition and that gives me the opportunity to learn and try new things. With that being said, serving as the Maryland State FFA President and later Miss Maryland Agriculture opened my eyes to Agriculture Communications. I’m passionate about educating people about where their food comes from. These two experiences allowed me to see career options available to fulfill that passion. To gain experience in this field, I knew I needed an internship that would fit my passion. The National Chicken Council had the perfect opportunity for me. They have been able to give me the full experience of a communications and public relations job while covering a topic I truly enjoy and understand. I knew the travel to DC would be a challenge, but I knew I would get the experience I would need for my future. As a wise friend once told me, “The more you put into something, the more you will get out of it.” I am looking forward to the knowledge and professional experience I will gain through my internship with the National Chicken Council.
What’s your favorite chicken dish?
There is a little ma and pa ice cream shop in town that makes the best fried chicken and fries! I love ending the meal with a delicious milkshake.