A New Perspective

For Journey 4 we are learning more about resources and regulations of the Chesapeake Bay by watching documentaries and visiting poultry and dairy farms. It has been stated several times now that agriculture is the main source of pollution because of the excessive amount of nitrogen and phosphorous discharge. Currently the Bay is facing an environmental crisis because it’s not able to function at the most basic level to provide activities such as fishing or swimming for the community. Water pollution is becoming more hazardous for people’s health with any sort of contact even through drinking the water. There is an increase of algae bloom which is causing dead zones around the Bay killing the marine ecosystem and it’s inhabitants. Poultry farms are often the ones blamed for this because of the enormous amounts of chicken litter/waste that is produced per farm which is leaking into the streams and rivers connected to the Bay. Commercial chicken farms such as the David Family Farm works for Perdue, one of the biggest poultry industry that sells more than a million chickens. Perdue owns all the chickens and provides the necessary feed and health inspections while the farmers only grow the chickens to their market size. What is quiet odd is that even though Perdue owns the chickens, they do not take responsibility for the waste. In their defense, they say that the farmers need it to fertilize their fields. This may be true to some degree but there is simply too much of it to be used so instead it becomes an environmental hazard. My group and I had the opportunity to visit the David Family Farm and hear from Allen and Ollen who are identical twins and the 6 generation to run the farm. They showed us one of the chicken houses and discussed about their difficulties with meeting the regulations that the government has been enforcing.

The idea of visiting a poultry farm of any type whether its chickens, cows, or pigs – I would never do it because of the horrific images that come to mind of animal cruelty and unsanitary conditions. I’m too much of an animal lover and I could only imagine the animals caged or in very cramp spaces with no ability to move. TV advertisements and watching the documentary “Food Inc.” had only proved my point and furthered my hesitation to see the David’s Farm. However I couldn’t have been more surprised and happy upon visiting and seeing the chickens. When I walked into one of their coops, I immediately saw that they were all spread out roaming freely with lots of space instead of caged up. Also what struck me was how relatively clean the place was in terms of no dead chickens laying around, feathers everywhere, and fresh piles of poop dotting the place. I’m positive that they had cleaned up the dead chickens before our arrival but it was just nice not having to see them. In truth we were standing on chicken poop but it had been “cleaned” and smoothed out to provide a layer of dirt. They showed us the different parts of the chicken house from the feed/water system to the ventilation of air and heating appliances. What they stressed the most during our conversation was that they wanted to be sure the chickens were happy and healthy. If something goes wrong, they’ll know about it and fix it. They continued to show us around the farm and explained to us that it’s difficult to find the money to pay for all of the permits and machines that are necessary keep the farm going. Some of the agricultural machines cost more than $3,000, I was certainly impressed by how big they were. New tools are highly advanced now with specific mechanism for measuring how much manure is deposited or the amount of chemicals being sprayed, etc. There was a new perspective of how much it takes to run a farm because of the demand and costs, it’s no longer simple to do it the traditional way.

It was an incredible experience to meet with Allen and Ollen and hear their side of the story which isn’t often portrayed correctly hence what I had expected when coming to their farm. I found it interesting to learn about the constant struggle to keep up with the market demand which often puts environmental problems aside. There shouldn’t be any excuse to find an efficient management for the excessive chicken waste at least one that will make sure it doesn’t runoff into the waterways. Poultry farms have other environmental issues such as the mega fans that blow tons of dust into the atmosphere and which can affect our breathing. This has been addressed but never fixed because of the lack of scientific concrete evidence. These and other like them need to seriously be confronted personally and as a whole if there’s ever going to be a chance to find a solution and save the Bay. It’s childish to continue playing the blame game when everyone needs to instead step up to the plate and contribute.

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