Battling giant agribusinesses isn’t just confined to Washington. This year, the war is being fought in what used to be a pristine, quiet riparian woodland stretch in Macon County Tennessee. That’s where Tennessee’s oldest and largest organic farm has been duking it out with a Tyson food subsidiary.
Long Hungry Creek Farm is owned by Jeff Poppen, otherwise known as “The Barefoot Farmer” in his numerous PBS appearances. For more than a year Jeff fought a battle with his neighbors, who were seeking to build a Tyson chicken CAFO within a hundred yards of Jeff’s home and a large swath of his organic farm.
The neighbors own more than 70 acres on which they could have built, but in a complete disregard for all human decency, they chose to build right on the border between the two properties and within a few hundred feet of Jeff’s home!
This, despite the fact that Tyson’s own regulations require that chicken houses not be built within 1,500 feet from a school, business, or public places.
In response to this argument, the Tyson subsidiary argued that Long Hungry Creek Farm is “not a business.”
Alan Powell, the CSA Manager for Long Hungry Creek Farm, reports:
Anyone with any sense of fairness recognizes that to build so close to Jeff when you own over 70 acres to place such an operation, is just not right, and almost comes across as vindictive. Cobb [the neighbor] has successfully changed the nuisance laws in Macon County to remove any simple recourse to prevent the encroachment and subsequent threat an operation like theirs poses to a chemical-free, biodynamic, decades-old established farm and business like Jeff’s. While the company continues to insist there is no threat of runoff or contamination from their chicken houses, that doesn’t make sense given the proximity and volume of chickens just up the hill from Long Hungry Creek Farm.
Sadly, the two new chicken houses that comprise the new CAFO house more than 37,500 birds!
Not only are these birds directly uphill from Jeff’s home and this section of his farm, they’re also upwind — meaning that all sprays, pesticides, ammonia smells, and chicken waste runoff will be coming right down the hill to Long Hungry Creek Farm.
The threat of this contamination and the loss of Jeff Poppin’s organic certification prompted Long Hungry Creek Farm to fight a year long battle against building these chicken houses so near their property’s boundaries.
As part of that effort, friends of the farm engaged in a lengthy letter writing campaign to Cobb-Vantress (the Tyson subsidiary) asking them to build their new facilities further back from the property line. Even an extra 1,000 ft. would have made a HUGE difference!
Alan Powell continues:
We know they spray insecticides and herbicides around the buildings, it is explicitly stated in the contract Jeff’s neighbor signed to become a farmer for the Tyson subsidiary….
We fought this and managed to hold off the operation for over a year, before the company found a loophole that exempted them from the permit that was previously preventing the chickens from being allowed on site. They often repeat in correspondence that they have been cooperative, and in fact did reorient the houses so that the vents blew away from the farm. I hold that reorienting the houses shows that something foul (no pun intended) comes out of these houses, even if just the smell, but potentially airborne chicken feces that contain antibiotic residues, ammonia, and if the practice is still in use, arsenic, which used to be standard in industrial chicken feed.
This waste is not merely assumed or expected. It’s already been experienced first hand by Jeff and his Long Hungry Creek Farm workers. Earlier last year, after a particularly heavy rain, they experienced a mudslide from the newly built chicken houses down the hill into their gardens.
Seeing the runoff prompted one witness to proclaim,
It doesn’t take much to imagine that this mud is an equally massive amount of drug-laced chicken shit sitting around in the rain while it is waiting to be picked up. Approximately 200 tons of waste from the CAFO is expected to be cleaned out two times a year, which is over 11,000 cubic feet in volume. Layered a foot deep, how many football fields is that?
Because of this, Jeff made a heart breaking decision to close down operations on this side of his farm, to move his family out of his home of nearly 40 years, and to relocate to the other side of his property.
“I can’t guarantee organic production here anymore,” Poppen said.
“Because of how close they built it, there will be no more gardens here, no more T.V. shows filmed here, no more church and school tours here and my family and I are moving,” Poppen posted on his Facebook page.
To see an aerial photo of the encroachment of the Tyson subsidiary (and just how shockingly near it is to Jeff’s farm), click here.
PLEASE NOTE: It has been misreported that Long Hungry Creek Farm is closing. Rather than closing, the farm is simply abandoning this part of its operations. It will still be open, and it is currently taking applications for membership in its 2013 CSA program. Nevertheless, the farm, and Jeff Poppen in particular, have taken a serious hit.
(photo by cornucopia.org)