A Millsboro poultry farm was one of six farms nationwide to be recognized for environmental excellence during the 2018 International Production & Processing Expo, recently held in Atlanta. Baker's Acres Farm was awarded the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association's Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award. USPOULTRY sponsors the annual awards in recognition of exemplary environmental stewardship by family farmers engaged in poultry and egg production.
Terry Baker was given an award placard to display at the entrance to his family's farm and a $1,000 check.
Applicants were rated in several categories, including manure management, nutrient management planning, community involvement, wildlife enhancement techniques, innovative nutrient management techniques, and participation in education and outreach programs. Applications were reviewed and farm visits conducted by a team of environmental professionals from universities, regulatory agencies and state poultry associations.
Baker's Acres Farm is owned and operated by Terry Baker Jr., who raises broiler chickens for Mountaire Farms. Following in his father's footsteps, Baker started his career in the poultry processing side of the industry, eventually working for Mountaire Farms. Wanting to spend more time with his young and growing family, he left Mountaire to farm full time. He has since successfully expanded the size of his farm through the use of new technology and innovative management practices.
For example, Baker and his wife Mena have implemented several new conservation practices since they purchased the farm in 2007, including sheds for manure storage, heavy-use area pads in front of all houses and storage buildings, grassy swales for stormwater retention, and environmental buffer zones. Baker also has planted a wide variety of vegetation around the farm to prevent erosion, reduce the farm's environmental impact and provide a visual buffer for good neighbor relations. The Bakers also have been utilizing a comprehensive nutrient management plan for the past 10 years.
The Baker family's positive impact on the environment, however, is not limited to their farm. Baker and his business partner Victor Clark spent several years researching, testing and eventually introducing an alternative animal mortality management practice on Delmarva. Large on-farm freezer units allow growers like Baker to safely store and preserve the farm's daily routine mortality, so the material can later be transported to a rendering facility and recycled into valuable commodities.
Farmers across Delmarva utilizing this management practice are eliminating the nutrient load created by other mortality management practices that do not fully recycle the material. For example, both composting and incineration of carcasses necessarily require land application as a second step for disposal. Those nutrients, which are now diverted from land application, are tracked by Baker's hauling/recycling company and then reported to the state as part of each customer's annual nutrient management report.
Baker thinks any extra effort to preserve natural resources – whether on or off his farm – is extremely important. "I believe it is our responsibility as farmers to be good stewards of all God has entrusted to us," he said. "In return for the blessings bestowed, we should strive to leave things a little better than we found them. On our family farm, that means promoting environmental stewardship in all aspects of our operation, and fostering better relations with our neighbors and the public at large."
John Prestage, senior vice president for Prestage Farms and vice chairman of the USPOULTRY board of directors, presented the 2018 Family Farm Environmental Excellence award to Jimmy Paulakuhn of Mountaire Farms, who accepted the award on Baker's behalf.