Growing Responsibly – Sanderson Farms Grower Wins Outstanding Environmental Grower Award

Red chicken houses

Growing Responsibly

Sanderson Farms Grower Wins Outstanding Environmental Grower Award

For Don and Barbara Grady, owners of Grady Farms in Albertson, North Carolina, growing poultry for Sanderson Farms was never really their career plan and it certainly was not their retirement plan. Both retired from the DuPont plant in Kinston, North Carolina after 40 years of service, Don and Barbara thought a nice and “quiet” retirement on their 210-acre farm in Duplin County, North Carolina would be just what their hearts desired after 40 years of hard work.

The Gradys quickly found that they were not quite ready to be “retired” and began searching for something to occupy their time and efforts around the farm. About the time the Gradys were looking for something to keep them busy, Sanderson Farms was looking to build its first poultry facility in North Carolina.

The Gradys were presented with the opportunity to be poultry growers for Sanderson Farms’ Kinston, North Carolina facility, and the rest is history. Today, the Gradys own a four-house breeder farm on the same piece of land where Don was born, raised and taught to tend grain crops. A third generation farmer, Don and his wife Barbara now own a  breeder farm capable of housing approximately
48,000 birds.

Since they received their first flock in 2012, the Gradys have been extremely dedicated to their responsibility as growers and continue to strive to make their farm the best it can be. They aim to be successful not only for themselves, but for Sanderson Farms as a whole.

“The Grady Farm is run and operated in a very professional manner,” said David Lee, Production Manager for Sanderson Farms’ Kinston, North Carolina production division. “At Kinston Production, we are proud to have the Gradys as a part of our production team.”

Don and Barbara’s son, Robbie, manages the daily operations of the farm and takes great pride in the farm being proficient in its production. Robbie is extremely conscientious of the farm’s daily routine and any potential challenges that may arise. Along with two hourly employees, Robbie feeds the birds prior to sunrise each day, gathers eggs at least four times per day and helps to maintain all of the farm equipment. As a result, the Grady Farm consistently exceeds peak production expectations in both hatching eggs per hen and life of flock hatch.

As a reflection of their attention to detail and concern for the success of their farm, the Gradys are extremely conscious of their farm’s impact on the environment around them. Don and Barbara focus on three areas of environmental stewardship at their farm- manure management, odor control and water quality.

“No matter what business we are in, our concern for the effects that our business has on the environment is paramount,” said grower Don Grady. “We have certain guidelines and parameters that we are expected to conduct our business model under, we are to exhibit integrity and the ability to not only protect, but improve our environment when possible.”

The Grady’s approach to manure management practices on the farm consists of keeping water lines at desired heights within the houses as well as monitoring water pressure to ensure birds are not wasting water when drinker nipples are activated. Water conservation practices such as these help to produce a manure product that is easily handled during farm clean-up. Poultry litter is then broadcast at an agronomical rate on crop land and disked immediately to prevent any odors and run off that could occur as a result
of rainfall.

The second aspect of the Grady’s environmental stewardship plan includes odor control for surrounding properties. Odor control is maintained by composting and incinerating any excess bird mortality as well as controlling flies and other pests around the farm.

In addition to manure management and odor control, the Grady Farm strives to ensure their birds are protected from disease by following biosecurity practices and ensuring their birds have ample access to clean water. Consistent water quality is maintained by having two wells on the property that provide an ample, quality water supply. Both wells are controlled by a system that rotates the well units daily.

Biosecurity measures at the Grady Farm include a kitchen area, along with restrooms, that was built in the main office to encourage employees to stay on the farm during their lunch hour rather than encounter other poultry workers at nearby restaurants that could potentially carry diseases from other flocks. Grady Farm employees change shoes when they reach the office and leave those shoes on the farm at all times to prevent the spread of disease. The Gradys also improved their farm’s biosecurity by moving their dumpster and trash disposal outside the farm barricade. As a result, weekly trash pick-up vehicles stay off the farm premises, helping to prevent exposing the farm to outside diseases.

“The Gradys excel every year by consistently following Sanderson Farms’ Growing Program,” said Lee. “The Growing Program, along with the company’s stringent biosecurity standards, have enabled the Grady Farm to produce production numbers that are always above average.”

Due to their hard work and dedication, Grady Farms recently received an Outstanding Environmental Grower Award from the North Carolina Poultry Federation. During competition for the award, growers were evaluated and selected based on environmental practices, agriculture activities, positive image, innovative ideas and their personal definition of environmental stewardship.

“The North Carolina Poultry Federation has been recognizing family farms since 2005 with our annual Outstanding Environmental Growers Awards,” said Bob Ford, Executive Director for the North Carolina Poultry Federation. “It’s family farmers like the Gradys who take pride in their farming practices to make sure the land, water and air is protected and that their farm is passed on in excellent shape for future generations to enjoy.”