At Perdue Farms, sustainable agriculture practices are vital to our mutual business success. Hardworking farmers know that to pass farmland down to the next generation of farmers in their families, they must do all they can to keep the soil healthy, prevent runoff into our precious streams and waterways and limit the amount of carbon dioxide (C02) that is emitted into the environment. Here, we review regenerative farming techniques that will protect our planet for years to come.
Sustainable agriculture is farming in such a way as to protect the environment, aid and expand natural resources and make the best use of nonrenewable resources (i.e. fossil fuels, etc.).
Green Farming Practices: Grain Farmers
The farmers who grow crops for Perdue are part of a completely integrated system. We grow our own grain to make our own nutritious 100% vegetarian feed to nourish the chickens we raise. The quality of grain that goes into our feed helps chickens thrive and ultimately (and we believe) improves the flavor of our food products. Regenerative practices are the key to our farmers’ success and ensure that we can continue farming for generations to come.
- No-Till or Strip-Till Farming: Extensive plowing of farmland releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Using a technique that slices through the soil surface and drops seeds in without excessive turnover keeps CO2 in the soil and prevents soil runoff into precious waterways. As plants grow, they capture additional CO2 from the environment and absorb nutrients like nitrogen that may leach into the soil, a win-win!
- Broadening Fertilizer Options: Planting cover crops that scavenge nutrients and biologicals that promote synergistic benefits with plant roots to create nitrogen are supporting efforts to reduce the number of synthetic fertilizers used to produce row crops.
- Compost and Manure Management: Organic matter is essential for healthy soil, as it captures nutrients, retains moisture, and provides a good food source for microbes that in turn stimulate plant growth. Placing organic matter and nutrients back into the soil is a circular way to recycle nutrients from poultry production.
- Targeted Use of Herbicides: To bolster the health of pollinators and encourage biodiversity, farmers may employ state-of-the-art equipment to target weeds with small amounts of herbicide.
- Diverse Crop Rotations: Farmers who grow grain crops for Perdue are encouraged to plant non-GMO rapeseed (canola), organic canola and organic sunflower, in addition to corn, wheat and soybeans. Rotating crops breaks up pest and disease cycles, boosts soil quality and improves the health of bees, imperative for pollination.
- Irrigation Management: Green farming practices slow water runoff and leaching of nitrous oxide (N2O) into the soil due to heavy rainfall or too much irrigation.
We decided to try out the Pilot Program because we felt like it would be an opportunity to document the regenerative practices we are implementing on the farm now, and then build off of them going forward. We hope that the future sees us expanding our current work onto more acres, adopting the next generation of practices, and leveraging all of the above for better yields and economic incentives.
— Dustin Madison, Engel Farms Hanover, VA
To encourage and support grain farmers in their efforts to adopt regenerative farming practices, Perdue offers acre payments to support adoption of practices (no-till, cover crops), provides technical agronomy assistance to implement, and offers a data-collection platform to capture ecosystem data to support maximizing environmental and economic benefits.
Green Farming Practices: Poultry Farmers
Perdue supports the efforts of hardworking chicken farmers who choose to adopt sustainable farming practices that enrich the soil and improve water quality via local waterways. Farmers can also take advantage of their acreage to generate clean, green energy that cuts down on electrical costs.
Farmers were and are the original environmentalists. This is absolutely their livelihood. They are invested in protecting and preserving the land and the resources.”
— Drew Getty, Vice President, Environmental Sustainability and Government Relations, Perdue Farms
- Organic Fertilizer: Believe it or not, chicken manure (also called chicken litter) makes an excellent fertilizer. Grain farmers can use it in lieu of synthetic fertilizers. In the world of green farming, it’s a pretty big deal!
- Nutrient Management: That being said, too much of a good thing may do more harm than good. Many states require farmers to maintain nutrient-management plans. Plans are in place to track and monitor how much fertilizer and organic matter are applied to crops based on soil tests. Proper management prevents nitrogen and phosphorus, a byproduct of organic fertilizer, from finding its way into nearby waterways, thereby protecting wildlife and ecosystems.
- Litter Sheds: These covered structures help with management of poultry manure. The size of the shed is determined by the size of the farm. Proper storage helps keep farms clean and tidy – and keeps poultry manure (organic fertilizer) on the farm and out of the water.
- In-Vessel Composting Technology:In a true circle of life, soil, litter and even poultry are key ingredients in organic matter that is used to nourish crops. Those inputs can, in turn, be used to replace synthetics fertilizers in crop production.
- Concrete or Heavy Use Pads: Another tool in farmers’ arsenal to prevent fertilizer from reaching waterways, pads can be placed at each end of a chicken house to capture litter or debris that is tracked outside by various farming practices. Once debris is trapped, it can be swept back into the house.
- Storm Water Management: It’s all about keeping nutrients where they belong – on the farm. Many independent farmers under contract to raise Perdue chickens incorporate ponds and rock beds on their farms that help capture and absorb storm water and prevent runoff.
- Solar Panels: To keep electric and fuel costs low, poultry farmers can place solar panels on their farms. When placed in the grassy areas between chicken houses, the panels can double as shade structures, a requirement for organic and free-range poultry certification.
Green farming practices adopted by poultry farmers vary by farm location – some are state mandated and some are voluntary.
We recognize that producing more with less is not the full measure of sustainability, and that we need to take a holistic approach that overlaps with our commitments to food safety and quality, animal welfare, associate well-being, consumer preferences, community concerns and supporting family farms. To be sustainable, practices must be repeatable and integrated into our daily operations.