Ten farm families in the Delmarva Chicken Association community were recognized as exemplary farmers raising broiler chickens. Each grower is an independent farmer raising chickens under contract for one of Delmarva’s chicken companies.
Donnie Howard was recognized as one of the outstanding growers. He bought his farm in 1992 in Somerset County, Maryland, on the Delmarva (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) Peninsula, with just one chicken house and soon started adding houses and making improvements. He insulated and closed the sidewalls, added stir fans, converted to tube heat and installed LED lights. He also put in place environmental practices such as building a manure storage shed, adding compost bins and developing a comprehensive nutrient plan, among others.
Today, he raises birds for the Tyson Foods Temperanceville Complex in Virginia.
“It’s provided a steady income, and it suits my daily routine – not doing the same thing every day,” says Howard. “It can be hectic, and sometimes things don’t go as planned, but it suits me, personally.”
With life on a farm comes a great responsibility to the birds, which Howard takes very seriously.
“I want healthy birds,” says Howard. “That’s what it’s about, taking care of them, making sure they’re comfortable.”
Howard credits his success with consistency every day.
“I try to be prepared for what might happen, particularly with mechanical issues, and deal with them when I find them – not tomorrow,” says Howard. “Deal with it today, and get it done today.”
This is Howard’s approach to farm life, even during a pandemic, and he counts himself lucky to maintain that life.
“I think we’re fortunate in some ways,” says Howard. “We haven’t been laid off. I’m still raising birds and getting paid. I certainly haven’t been affected the way I see people on television have. We’ve kept going.”
And it’s for the sake of other people that drives Howard forward.
“There are empty spaces on store shelves, and that’s not what we’ve been used to,” says Howard. “Ensuring that doesn’t happen with chicken motivates me.”
With years of experience doing what he loves, Howard has simple advice for new poultry farmers.
“Don’t listen to everything you hear on the street. Run your farm and don’t worry so much about what your neighbor is doing. Take care of your job – make sure your job’s done first. Deal with what you have.”
At Tyson, we take responsibility for feeding the world, and that begins with the relationships we have with independent poultry farmers who provide us with high-quality protein. We supply birds, feed and technical advice, while the farmers care for the chickens on their farms.
Tyson strives to support contract poultry farmers in their efforts to run their businesses wisely and to operate independent and sustainable enterprises. Donnie Howard is a great steward and deserves to be recognized with an outstanding grower award.
By Morgan Watchous