Who in Their Right Mind Raises Pastured Poultry?! (Lessons Learned at the APPPA Conference 2020)
Farmers rarely take days off. So when hundreds of farmers converge at a conference center in Florida for three days straight, something special must be going on. The Professional Pastured Poultry Conference, which we attended along with more than 200 others this week, was a special event indeed.
The conference is hosted by APPPA (the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association), a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging all things pastured poultry. APPPA has existed for decades but only started hosting a conference four years ago. As we like to say, "The Movement" is growing.
There were folks in attendance from as far west as California, as far north as Ontario, even all the way down to Bermuda and Haiti - each with unique experiences to share.
You learn quickly how no farm is blessed with perfect circumstances. In order to survive, each farmer must recognize the unique advantages as well as challenges they face and run their businesses accordingly.
For example, those in southern California are gifted with a nearby population of millions, and their climate is mild, allowing for year-round growing. But on the other hand, land is expensive, taxes are high, and regulations are strict.
In rural Kansas, it's pretty much the opposite - vast expanses of cheap farmland are abundant, but the population density is something like 2 people per square mile. That's not a very big customer base. And then there's the winters...
But after hearing the stories of pastured poultry farmers from all corners of the country, one thing became clear: you can succeed in this business no matter where you come from. It just requires an enormous amount of energy and commitment, patience and endurance, and adaptability to ever-changing times.
To sum up, here's a quote from a conference session led by Nathan Bonds that stuck with me most:
"Having no problems is the biggest problem of all."
If you think about it, how do we grow if we aren't solving problems?
Every farmer we met was facing all sorts of problems - marketing, regulations, weather, staffing, predators, finances, technology, and on and on...
But no one was shying away from them.
On the contrary, they were going out of their way to bring each problem to light because there were clearly solutions in the knowledge and experience of the others in the room.
That was the power of the event.
A relatively small group of inordinately passionate individuals, all saddled with problems, yet all working to solve the same big problem at the end of the day: an industrial food and farming system that is inhumane, environmentally destructive, and incapable of producing truly wholesome and nutritious food.
As relative newcomers to the scene ourselves, we realized at APPPA how all the problems we faced in our first year of pastured poultry farming were overcome by many farmers before us. We know we have even bigger problems coming up, but at least now we feel like we've gotten something of a sneak peek at them by learning from the experiences of those ahead of us.
In everything we do, we are so much stronger together than we could ever be alone. We look forward to attending many more APPPA conferences, befriending many more pastured poultry producers and advocates, and overcoming very many more problems.
If you're interested in learning more about what the pastured poultry movement is all about and seeing some farms first-hand, this short video is a great introduction.
Also, it's still under construction but be sure to bookmark GetRealChicken.com, which will be a nationwide resource for finding pastured poultry producers near you and much more.