Spotlight on Huneycutt Brothers' Farm of Albemarle, North Carolina
Todd and Rodney Huneycutt, owners of Huneycutt Brothers' Family Farm in Albemarle, NC, were one of three Pilgrim's growers awarded the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association's Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award recognizing exemplary environmental stewardship by family farmers engaged in poultry and egg production. The awards were presented in February 2011 at the annual International Poultry Exposition show in Atlanta.
Huneycutt Brother's Family Farm is a fifth-generation, 2200-acre farm. Farming has been part of the Huneycutt's lifestyle dating back to their great-grandfather. Todd and Rodney grew up working the farm with their parents, Melvin and Marie.
"Farming is all I've ever done. It's our way of life, it's hard working and we spend lots of time on the farm, every night and day. But we get to do things on the farm that we can be proud of. We hope someday it pays off, and our kids might want to continue on. I think they will," said Todd.
Huneycutt is a multi-faceted farm raising 4,000 swine, 100 head of cattle, and 526,000 chickens, as well as corn, soybeans, wheat, oats and straw every year.
The Family that Farms Together Stays Together
Melvin and Marie live in the main farm house, though they've passed on the farming business to their sons, Todd and Rodney, whose own families live "within seeing distance."
Rodney and his wife, Janet, have three children: Eric, Griffin and Robbie.
Todd and his wife, SanDee, have two children: Rhett and Tristen.
All the boys are learning the family business by helping out on the farm.
As part of their extended family, Todd includes Don Burris and says "he's been with us for 20 years now, and he's like a brother."
"Don and I mostly take care of all the chickens and cattle and get up the straw. Rodney plants and harvests, and my nephew Robbie looks after the hogs. Our dad, Melvin, still enjoys helping out during harvest, running one of the combines. We all have our own things we do every day," says Todd.
Caring for the Environment
The family-owned farm is dedicated to environmental stewardship, protecting the environment through science, technology and best management practices. The Huneycutts maintain a nutrient management plan for litter management, with the majority of the litter used on their own fields. The family reserves 25 acres as a natural habitat for deer and other forest animals.
"Everybody's always said that we're kind of neat freaks on our chicken farm. We do a lot of things as far as biosecurity. We have a fence around our farm, so not just anybody can travel in and out. We do a lot of things for erosion, and we keep soil samples and litter samples. We keep the farm cleaned up and mowed and keep the roads graveled. We keep up with all the state rules and regulations that come with poultry farming. When they came to look, they saw that we put a lot of effort into protecting the environment. They saw the effort to do a good job and set an example for other farms," Todd said about winning the environmental award.
A First-class Operation
Terry Tomberlin, grower manager for Pilgrim's Marshville Complex, said he would be very happy if he had another 100 growers like the Huneycutts.
"Their character is first class," said Tomberlin. "These guys are hard working and they have a family tradition. When you pull up to their farm you're looking at class. I've seen farms all over and I've never seen a nicer one."
"They've got first-class chicken houses and they just recently updated them to make them even better," Tomberlin said. "They have the top-of-the-line in the industry. These houses are set up for better growing conditions for the chicken."
Some of the environmental measures that Tomberlin appreciates most include planting crops in hilly areas to reduce erosion, fencing around their chicken houses, an incinerator to properly dispose of waste, barriers around the farm, reusing chicken and swine litter on their crops and updated equipment.
The farm life suits the Huneycutt family and they are proud of be raising their families on the farm.
"I think it's wonderful for the kids," said Todd. "The farms are dwindling down and there's very few kids that get a chance to get in the farm atmosphere. My son Rhett is telling kids at school about driving tractors, taking care of chickens and cleaning hog houses and it's just over their heads. I think they learn a lot from being in this situation and they learn a lot about life growing up that way. I believe it's impacted the kids in a good way. They spend a lot of time with us and its added value to their lives to be able to spend time with their dads when we're working."