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How Terry Baker Practices Environmental Sustainability on His Chicken Farm

Terry Baker raises about 137,000 broiler chickens per flock on his family farm in Delaware. Not only is Terry an exceptional chicken farmer, but he is also an accomplished environmental steward.

“I think it is our responsibility as farmers to be good stewards of the environment,” Terry said.

In addition to ensuring the welfare of the birds, Terry is passionate about reducing the impact of his farm on the environment.

What Inspired Terry to Become an Environmental Steward

Leaving a two-decade long career in poultry processing, Terry decided to focus full-time on his chicken farm, with the goal of spending more time with his family.

Not long after, tragedy struck.

A winter storm in 2010 led to the collapse of one of Terry’s chicken houses. Suddenly, Terry had a new perspective on the environmental impact of his farm.

“The mess that was left over was unbelievable I thought, we lived here and this mess was right near my house. Soon after that, I began implementing many of the common practices…then expanded into things I thought would make an even bigger impact,” he said.

How Terry Conserves Water on the Chicken Farm

Water conservation is a key part of Terry’s sustainability efforts. Grassy swales and environmental buffer zones help guide and retain storm water. In addition, plants on the farm maximize the absorption of any nutrients moved by precipitation.

Terry’s farm also has a pond. The pond is more than scenic – it collects and holds much of the rainwater that falls on the farm. The pond is regularly stocked with a variety of fish to keep it self-sustaining.

How Terry Recycles Poultry Litter

100% of the poultry litter on Terry’s farm is recycled and reused. Poultry litter is a mix of poultry excreta (also known as chicken manure), spilled feed, feathers, and material used as bedding.

Terry collects poultry litter from the chicken houses and moves it to a secured shed. Terry then works with a broker to find other farmers who recycle the chicken manure as an organic fertilizer on row crops and mushrooms.

All manure removed from the farm is weighed and accounted for – nutrients generated as a byproduct are accurately tracked and reported to the state in Baker’s Acres’ annual nutrient management report.

With the help of the Natural Resources Conversation Service, 40’ x 40’ concrete heavy use area pads were installed in front of all chicken house loading doors and the entrances to the manure sheds. These heavy use area pads allow Terry an easy way to clean up manure that was spilled or tracked by tires. Material that may have been washed out in the past can now be put to good use.

How Terry Conserves Land & Air Quality on the Farm

Terry plants miscanthus, arundo and switchgrass between the chicken houses and in front of tunnel fans to capture ammonia and collect dust and particles. The plants also help reduce potential odors from the houses.

Trees and other foliage planted throughout the farm prevent soil erosion and put nutrients from the earth to good use.

How Terry Manages Mortality on the Farm

Death is a natural part of farm life. Especially with such a large population (137,000 chickens on Terry’s farm), a small percentage of that population will be lost to routine causes of death (e.g., illness).

Along with a business partner, Terry has spent years crafting a new system for handling chicken mortality on his farm. This process involves freezing dead birds so that their nutrients can be 100% recycled (e.g. into valuable commodities, such as poultry fat, which can be used as a feedstock for producing biofuels) without applying any high phosphorous material to farm fields, unlike traditional mortality composting. Working with the National Resources Conservation Services of Delaware, Terry helps other farmers determine necessary freezer capacity to implement this sustainability innovation.

Terry’s Ongoing Journey

Terry employs a number of practices to reduce the impact of his farm on the environment – every day.

Terry is always looking for new ways to improved his practices – it is a continuous process.

Terry’s sustainability contributions have been recognized with multiple environmental awards, including The US Poultry & Egg Association’s Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award. Although Terry is an outstanding example of environmental stewardship, he still looks for innovative ways to reduce his chicken farm’s impact on the environment.

Interested in learning more about Terry and his chicken farm? Get to know Terry in this Q&A.