Daniel Dover started Darby Farms seven years ago to cure his body and mind of constant fatigue and depression after a life time of eating dead food and 2 1/2 years of being a vegetarian/vegan. So utilizing three acres of pasture owned by his wife’s family in Monroe, Ga., Daniel resolved to feed himself, family, friends and neighbors with nutrient dense foods. Darby Farm now leases a house with 50+ acres of pasture and mixed hard wood and pine with hopes of negotiating more. For 2015 Darby Farms plans to raise 1,200 laying hens, 15,000 meat type chicken, duck and turkey, 100 pigs, 20 head of sheep and a few head of cattle.
Daniel will be presenting the Educational Session “Raising Poultry for Market,” at the 18th Annual Georgia Organics Conference, Recipe for Change: Better Farms, Better Flavors,” Feb. 20-21 at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga.
How long have you been raising pastured-poultry chickens, and what changes have you seen in the marketplace since you began?
We started in the spring of 2007 with cornish cross. We have seen a 1,000-fold increase in demand for our freedom ranger meat birds that we now raise since that inception.
What’s the biggest barrier you see for the growth of industry in Georgia?
There are 4 barriers that really strangle what we can do here in GA
1. Proximity of a USDA small scale poultry processing facility that can handle 1000 or more head a day.
2. Rules and regulations set forth by GADOA and EPD for P.L. 90-492 for on – farm poultry processing
3. Consistent and reliable local non-gmo feed mills
4. Local hatchery
In hindsight, is there anything you’d do differently know that you have several years of production under your belt?
Livestock guardian dogs with our poultry flocks for sure. We could lose three to five birds in a 24 hour period to owls and hawks before we started using them. We lose .01% of our flocks to predators now. Also shooting owls and hawks is an expensive proposition at $3,500 per migratory bird not to mention the negative environmental impact it causes on the farm. So a dog trained to poultry for $1,000 is a cheap solution.
Where do you see Darby Farms in five years?
I’m an ardent believer in keeping what we sell in a 100 mile radius of our farm, keeping it in the local food hub. So I certainly don’t see us selling our products up and down the eastern sea board. We do, however, grow about 30% every year since we started and add at least one new species or breed a year for the past seven.
The real question is how much bigger do we want to grow and at what cost to the standards of our products, the treatment and conditions of our animals and the quality of life for my family and the folks I work along side. How big is to big? I struggled with that question everyday.
You’ve been to several Georgia Organics conferences. What are you looking forward to the most this year?
It’s always most about seeing old friends and making new ones, creating a community of interdependence. Also the thrill of pitching around old and new ideas in and outside of the educational secessions till you are hoarse, have mental breakdown, then we eat, get buzzed, dance and go home. Good times!