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Get to Know Matt, a Chicken Farmer from Virginia

How did you get into chicken farming?

My family’s farming operation is located in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley where we have been raising broiler chickens since the 1950’s.   We currently raise about 750,000 birds annually for Pilgrim’s Pride.  After graduating from Virginia Tech in 1995, I spent a few years teaching agriscience, serving in our state legislature, serving as Virginia’s Commissioner of Agriculture and leading the Farm Credit Knowledge Center. 

This past summer my wife Beth and I purchased the farm from my parents and we now proudly call ourselves full time farmers.  In addition to raising chickens, we also raise feeder cattle, corn, soybeans, barley and sweet corn.

What do you love about chicken farming?

Raising chickens is a lot of work but it can also be very rewarding.  There is a lot of pride in caring for animals and seeing them grow and mature throughout their time with us.  I also enjoy working alongside my family and instilling a love of farming in my six kids.  I am currently the 5th generation to operate our farm and my wife and I hope that some of our children will want to continue the farming tradition one day.

What’s your least favorite thing about chicken farming?

Farming can be unpredictable at times and this can be very challenging.  Water floods or feed spills can sure make a tough job a lot tougher sometimes.  Luckily we have lots of help to pitch in when those types of accidents happen.

What’s one thing about chicken farming you wish more people would know?

I wish people could see just how much farmers care for their animals.  Even though there are a lot of birds in each chicken house, they are cared for with the highest level of comfort. Computers and sophisticated equipment help ensure the temperature, water and feed supply are always at ideal levels.  Unfortunately biosecurity controls restrict the public from seeing just how much the chickens are cared for, but rest assured farmers do a great job taking care of their animals.  

What’s your favorite chicken dish?