October 12, 2011

Something to squawk about

As demand for local meat rises, Mainers who raise poultry chafe at state rules that affect how they process and market their birds.

(Continued from page 2)

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Steve Hoad, who owns Emma’s Family Farm in Windsor, stands near some of his pastured poultry that he raises for meat. He and his daughter, Rose Hoad, who manages the farm with him, looked into building an on-farm processing facility, but were deterred by the cost.

Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Steve Hoad shows one of his processed chickens, vacuum sealed and ready for sale. It was processed by Weston’s Meat Cutting in West Gardiner, which is the only poultry processing facility in Maine with on-site state inspectors.

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Similarly, some producers say the process of complying with the regulations that protect public health needn't be so costly.

"I think people are scared off," Prince said. "I've heard those stories too, about 'Oh, it's going to cost me $30,000 to get the type of facility that's required.' But that's not what I've seen in actual practice. It can be done, and we'll work with them."

Ryan Wilson of Common Wealth Farm in Unity raises Pekin ducks and silver cross gray broilers. He raises 3,000 birds a year, and sells them at the Portland winter farmers' market and to Hugo's, Fore Street, Cinque Terre, Rosemont markets and Local Sprouts.

Wilson built his slaughtering facility in a corner of his barn, in a raised area so he could install plumbing without digging. The wastewater goes into a tank and ultimately is spread on his fields. The walls are plywood. He did it all, including the equipment, for under $10,000.

"All they want is something that is safe, that can be washed, and that you produce a product that's not going to hurt anybody," he said.

Wilson thought of it as an investment in his business, the way a vegetable farmer might invest in a new tractor. He said he thinks a lot of small Maine farms are actually "quasi-homesteaders" who are trying to do everything.

"I think that people don't understand that there's an economy of scale that needs to happens with agriculture to make the changes that we need," Wilson said. "I really believe in a lot of small-scale homesteaders. I think that's a great culture to have in America.

"But I think as far as changing the food system so that people can eat more locally produced food, we need to step it up a little bit in terms of size. And I'm not talking hundreds of acres. I'm talking about efficient agricultural productions that are both ecologically and economically efficient."

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: mgoad@pressherald.com

Twitter: MeredithGoad

 

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Additional Photos

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Chickens at Emma’s Family Farm seek shelter under a tarp. The farm produces up to 2,500 meat birds a year.

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Turkeys at Emma’s Family Farm in Windsor will be ready for the table by Thanksgiving. The challenge is getting them there, farmers say.

 


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