Thursday, October 4, 2012

Newton County Farmer of the Year (Part III): Intensive production ag

This year's Farm Family of the Year in Newton County represent something of an oddity in that context and are a sharp contrast with the other featured farmers about whom I have written here and here.  The family are Stacy and April Root and their sons aged 12 and 9.  They raise cattle and turkeys on 495 acres in far northwest Newton County, near the county line with Madison County.  What sets the Roots apart is the size of their operation.  They have about 100 cattle (including 59 cows, 30 calves and three bulls), but the bulk of the farm is devoted to turkeys, which they grow under contract with Cargill.  The roots have about 75,000 turkeys at any given time, and they sell between 250,000 and 300,000 birds to Cargill each year, after the birds reach a weight of 12-16 lbs/each.  The Roots say their goal is to make it possible for their sons to "carry on our farming experience."  Their operation is called Root & Sons Farm.

In addition to raising cows and turkeys, the Roots grow hay on 90 acres, with each acre yielding an average of 2.25 tons/year.  They use about 300 tons of turkey litter to fertilize their own 320 acres, as well as the additional land they lease.  They have several stacking sheds for drying and storing the litter.  They sell the excess hay and litter that they don't use in their own operation.

The Roots have been farming since 1998, and they have increased the amount of land they farm by 200 acres in those 14 years.  They said they chose to raise poultry because it was the best option "with limited land."  It also permits them to "spend time with their boys."   April Root commented that the family goal is "to continue to clear more land and acquire more cattle."

Both Roots were raised on farms, and both have worked off the farm.  April is currently owner and operator of the only licensed, voucher-accepting day care in nearby Kingston.  She opened the facility in 2009.

The Roots mention some weather related risks associated with farming, including the recent drought and the ice storm of 2009.  Roads were blocked and covered with ice, making it difficult "to get trucks to the farm to drop off and pick up turkeys and to get feed deliveries." The Roots were without electricity for 13 days.

No comments: