Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, September 25, 1993, Image 186

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    Page 2—Poultry Notes Supplement to Lancaster Farming, Saturday, Sept. 25,1993
Poultry Queen Family Strives For Excellence In Farming
(Contlniwd from Pago 1)
After reading an article on
composting in Lancaster
Farming,, Clark did a little
experiment on his own.
He dug a hole, threw in
chickens and covered them
with horse manure. Three
months later, he examined the
“There was nothing left
no bones nothing,” Clark
He realized composting was
the way to go. ASCS subsidized
50 percent of the cost. Plans
were approved by John
Schwartz, Lancaster Extension
director. In March 1992, the
compost was ready to use.
“It’s less labor to dispose of
chickens now than before,”
Clark said.
“I thought I would need a
college education to run it. But
with the right ingredients, you
can’t mess up. It’s a lot simpler
than what I expected.”
Four adjacent composting
bins were erected near the
chicken house. Instead of horse
manure that Stauffer used in his
original experience, he now
uses poultry litter that puts the
decomposing process in action.
Stauffer throws about three
shovelfuls of poultry manure
on top of the dead chickens
each day. Water is not added. A
roof must cover the bins to pre
vent rain from entering or the
compost pile will develop an
It takes about three weeks to
fill one bin before it is topped
with manure and allowed to go
through a seven to 10-day heat
cycle that reaches 150 degrees.
After the heat drops to about
100 degrees, the bin’s contents
are dumped into an adjacent bin
where it completes another heat
cycle. (The dumping aerates to
get the bacteria moving). At the
end of the second heat cycle,
the composting is complete and
ready to be spread on the fields.
The process usually reaches
160 degrees. There is no prob
lem with rodents, Clark said,
because it gets too hot for ani-
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mats to even come near. If the
process does smell, odors are
easily eliminated by aerating
and adding more manure.
Clark said that at first he
measured each ingredient care
fully for properly calculated
ratios, but now does it without
“It’s sort of like baking a
cake,” he said. “After you do it
so many times, you can make it
without measuring.”
No commercial fertilizer is
ever used on the farm as poultry'
manure does an effective job.
Stauffers were one of the
first county farms to erect a
non-pole bam in 1963. The
chicken house is a no footer
house without curtain sides. It
is environmentally controlled
with fans. The Stauffers con
tract with Pennfield to raise
Breeding and feeding
methods have advanced the
broiler industry substantially
since Stauffer first housed
“The first flock I put in took
14 weeks to finish. The last
flock took only five weeks and
three days,” he said. “It’s get
ting to the point where they
won’t need to bring in chicks —
they’ll go straight to slaughter.”
Feed conversion is 1.83 to a
pound of weight gain.
“You can’t get- any animal
more efficent than a broiler,” he
Melissa and her two sisters
are responsible for unloading
the chicks when brought to the
farm. After that Clark basically
takes care of the chickens.
His daughters primary
responsibilities are with the
produce business.
“Seven years ago, I needed
something to keep my three
daughters busy,’* Qaric said,
“so I put in an acre of produce.”
The first day, the family sold
the produce at the roadside
stand on the farm, they made
$l5. Every day after that sales
increased. Since then, it has
been Stauffer’s goal to double
the stand’s gross income each
year. And. mostly that goal has
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been achieved.
Not only do the Stauffers
keep the home produce stand
stocked, but they supply pro
duce to three local supermarket.
“It took me three years to
gain their (the stores’) confi
dence,” Stauffer said. He pur
poses to treat the supermarket
like he would want to be
treated. He, personally goes to
the supermarket everyday to
deliver the produce and to make
sure everything is fine. He
guarantees each product.
The supermarket has been so
pleased that they’ve asked
Clark to supply produce for the
whole chain, but Clark
He doesn’t have the time,
and he would find it difficult to
supply top quality produce on a
daily basis to such a large area.
In the produce business, veg
etables and fruit must be picked
the day it’s at its prime not
one day later when its conve
nient. That often requires rising
early in the morning and work
ing late at night.
Nevertheless, Stauffer
enjoys the fast-paced produce
business. “It’s interesting,
exciting, and challenging to
grow the best product,” he said.
“Weather dictates the crop,”
Stauffer said. And, for him, this
past summer was ideal with lots
of sun. Dry years mean a more
profitable business for Stauffer
because he irrigates.
People will drive long dis
tances for large, fully
developed sweet com com
pared to the non-irrigated short,
poorly developed ears, he said.
Wet years hurt produce sales
because he battles more fungus
and irrigating does not pay off.
The Stauffers use plastic to
extend the growing season.
Covering the crops with plastic
in early spring has enabled the
Stauffers to havest cataloupe
and tomatoes two weeks ahead
of the market
“The best advertising is word
of mouth,” Clark said. “People
will travel miles and pay extra
to get good produce. For that
reason, the Stauffers irrigate by
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le may be a poultry queen, but that doesn’t mean a pam
pered lifestyle. Here, Melissa picks tomatoes, one of the
many crops grown on 15 acres of produce.
using an overhead pump and
pump water from the creek on
the farm. Clark would like to go
to mote trickle irrigation, which
results in less fungus problems
and allows mote careful moni
toring of plants. But the over
head method has advantages.
During hot summer days, the
overhead irrigation systems
wet the chicken house roof to
cool off the broilers while
watering the produce acreage.
Stauffer follows a three-year
rotation plan for vine crops. To
control weeds he uses spray and
kids, he said. Sprays make pro
duce gardening less labor inten
sive but he does hire help for
For the past eight years, soil
and water conditions are moni
tored on the farm by a U.S. geo
logical survey with the Chesa
peake Bay.
This requites the Stauffers, to
keep records of everything that
goes on the soil, manure haul
ing, planting, and fanning
The Stauffer farm is only one
of two farms chosen for moni
toring. It was chosen bcause of
the way the land lays, the con
servation used, and the exces
sive manure.
During the first three years of
the monitoring, Clark used nor
mal farming practices, but stu
dies revealed that too much fer
tilizer was being used. Clark
stopped using commercial fer
tilizer and applied only half of
the manure he previously did.
“My yields are higher and I
have less cost because I don't
use commercial fertilizer and
only half the manure,” Clark
For two of Melissa Stauffer’s
favorite recipes in time to cele
brate National Poultry Month,
check the featured recipe on
page 86.