This is a Story Especially Close to Farmfront
Our board members have taken 2020 to act as farm community advocates and advisors in our own small parts of the world. Stevi Stewart has a great love and passion for the poultry world of western Kentucky. Her colleagues know it, too. That’s how she met Erick and got to witness his story.
If you are in Western Kentucky, Western Illinois, or the St. Louis Metro area and you want to expand your community of folks who know other folks and want to see you make the ag industry in those areas a little better like Erick, contact us.
A Western Kentucky man decided to make a transition from the military to chicken farming. This is about his story.
After 21 years of service, Erick Duncan is preparing to retire from the military in the fiscal year 2021. Erick who is married and has two daughters wants to be able to spend more time closer to home. Chicken farming in Western Kentucky presented that opportunity. In the middle of that preparation, he decided it was time to purchase his second chicken farming operation. That brought him a total of 8 chicken houses. Going full-time chicken farming is becoming a reality.
Erick didn’t grow up in a farming family. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t ready for farming challenges though. When asked how the military prepared him for the chicken industry he stated, “The military has taught me how to overcome adversity. Farming is not going to be a walk in the park and not a job that I would consider as a 9 to 5. I like challenges.”
When it comes to chicken farming, there’s plenty of challenges to tackle.
Erick started chicken farming in the latter half of 2018. He started at a relatively manageable scale with 4 40 x 500 broiler chicken houses, but he already knew he wanted to expand. That finally got started in the spring of 2020 when he purchased a second 4 house farm down the road.
He has finished his first flock in the new farm in time for the fall of 2020. Yet, it is just the start. There’s still a lot to learn just a couple of years into poultry farming. There are especially unique challenges with older poultry barns. Barns are like houses. They have residents who are eating, pooping, and living. Like houses, those barns have to be clean and safe for its residents. No exceptions. Older materials aren’t always going to deliver that. Ask anyone who lives in a Victorian house. Still, he’s going to continue producing chickens from the older barns until he’s ready to build newer, larger barns in the near future.
Day-to-day farming maintenance and engineering challenges are some of the hardest parts of learning the chicken farming industry. An advantage of growing up in a farming family is getting the practice and experience of equipment hacking from an early age. Erick though has had to learn that stuff on the fly as a grown adult. The best solution to overcome that? Erick’s most valuable business resource is the network of fellow Kentucky farmers he has befriended. They bring those missing decades of experience and can direct him down the right path.
COVID restrictions, and processing plants not being able to stay in operation has meant many parts of the meat industry have suffered this year. Thankfully, Erick notes that he has not noticed much of a change in his chicken growing. The operation he grows for has been lucky enough to continue processing, while following all guidelines. That means farmers have not been left out in the cold here, as they have in other areas.
Erick’s words of advice for those coming into farming from a non-agricultural background are, “Don’t be afraid to take risks and never let someone tell you no unless they can explain why.” He also thinks a new farmer’s best asset is good time management, especially when beginning to learn the commitments of a new operation.
You only have as many iterations as your career is long to get stuff right! We can’t agree more.
Don’t be afraid to take risks and never let someone tell you no unless they can explain why.
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