This week, Animal Welfare Approved and Wild Turkey Farms hosted a poultry processing workshop to train potential users of the new mobile processing unit (MPU). Funded by a Good Husbandry Grant and built by Wild Turkey Farms, this plant-on-wheels can travel to area farms for on-farm processing – minimizing transport stress on the animals and providing farmers an economical processing alternative (rental rates start at $45/day). Techniques on humane slaughter were demonstrated as well as cervical dislocation for emergency euthanasia. Attendees learned the importance of humane handling and catching to ensuring product quality and took home some good tips on effective product presentation. Many farmers raising birds for meat operate under the 1,000 bird exemption, meaning that they are not required to have an inspector on-site at the time of processing. However food safety is even more important for the small farmer than it is for a large plant and sanitation, biosecurity and recordkeeping were emphasized as important tools to ensure a safe product for the consumer. A very knowledgeable and gracious staff from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, including Don Delozier, State Director for the NCDA&CS Meat and Poultry Inspection Division and Compliance Officer Melanie Pollard, presented on the relevant regulations for on-farm processing, how to comply and where to go for more information.
Ronald Simmons farms 30 acres of land near Kenansville, North Carolina, where he raises Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) pigs with the help of his wife, Laurita, his daughter, Amaya Sloan, and in-laws, James and Helen McGowan.
“We currently have approximately 135 pigs, which we manage outdoors in roughly 22 acres of woodland,” says Ronald. “Dad had been raising hogs for over 30 years before I took an interest in raising them back in 2012. Our breeding stock consists of registered Berkshires, Yorkshires, Chester Whites and Durocs, which allows us to create various combinations for quality meat production.”
Ronald explains that the most important aspects of animal husbandry practices on the farm include good pasture rotation, the provision of fresh water and shade from woodland. “We always offer a number of drinkers in each pen to ensure a continued fresh water supply,” Ronald says. “The area where we manage our pigs has a natural forest canopy, providing ample natural shade and a variety of forest vegetation for them to enjoy rooting around in. We are strong believers in the idea that pasture-based management is better for the ecosystem and, ultimately, healthier for the consumer.”
Joining AGW was an important decision for the family: “With the rise of unregulated and meaningless label claims, we became Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW to stand out from the crowd,” Ronald explains. “It tells our customers that we really are farming the way we say we are. Our long-term goal is to be one of the leading pork producers with the highest standards for animal welfare and environmental management.”
Ronald and the team at Master Blend Family Farms is passionate about giving back to their community and supports local children in a variety of ways, such as hosting farm visits by groups from FFA and 4-H.
Ronald has also received multiple awards of the years for his dedication to his farm and community. In January of 2017, Master Blend Family Farms was presented the Dr. Martin Luther King Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Duplin county Progressive Leadership Organization. This award is based on the conduct displayed in the community through acts of volunteer works and discipline shown throughout the course of business involvement. Most recently, Ronald was awarded NC’s 2018 Small Farmer of the Year by NC A&T University in recognition of his contribution to North Carolina agriculture and, in particular, his work with the local community and local children, hosting farm visits by groups from FFA and 4-H. Ronald is also an active member of NC Goodness Grows, Duplin County’s Cooperative Extension Advisory Committee and the NC Pork Council.
Master Blend Family Farms opened their on-site Country Store in December 2015, where customers can find Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pork products, as well as many items from other local farmers, including vegetables, honey supplied by the local beekeepers and much more. Stay up to date on the farm through their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Yelp accounts. For more information about Master Blend Family Farms, visit masterblendfarms.webs.com.