Spotlight on Lucky Charm Farms in Weyers Cave, Virginia
Bud Shaver Jr., of Lucky Charm Farms in Weyers Cave, VA, is one of three Pilgrim's growers awarded the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association's Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award for his exemplary environmental stewardship.
The farm, which supplies the Pilgrim's plant in Broadway, VA, is composed of 1,755 acres with three broiler chicken houses, producing 950,000 chickens a year. The Shaver family uses a nutrient management plan for applying litter to their land, using approximately half for their own use and selling the other half third parties. The farm has eliminated run-off through conservation practices and the use of a three-mile fence. A 10-acre flood plane was planted with planted 1,100 trees and native grasses, providing a natural boundary for wildlife.
Shaver started as an employee of his farm 26 years ago. In 1993, the farmer he worked for built turkey houses and Bud managed them. In 2006, Bud purchased the property, renamed it Lucky Charm Farms and converted from turkey to chicken houses.
"I did a lot of research and this was the perfect fit for me. To be honest with you, chickens are about half the work of a turkey. At that time we were raising a 40-pound bird versus a six-pound bird. Chickens are easier on the back," Bud explained.
A True Family Farm
Bud and his wife, Misty, live on the farm with their two daughters, one of whom is involved in the Future Farmers of America program. Misty is very involved on the farm and also runs a bookkeeping business.
A Healthy Environment Produces Healthy Chickens
When he's not farming, Bud is active in the local agricultural and environmental community. He serves as the vice president of the Augusta County Farm Bureau and sits on the boards of the Augusta Cooperative Farm Bureau and the Agricultural Industry Board for Augusta County. He also serves on a steering committee for Friends of the Middle River, an organization with the mission to improve water quality through voluntary measures.
"I used to have a bumper sticker on my tractor that said, ‘Farmers were the first environmentalists,'" Bud said. "The way I feel about it is, if we don't leave something a little bit better than we received it, then what are we doing to society? If you don't take care of the land, the land is not going to take care of you," said Bud.
"The way I feel about it is, if we don't leave something a little bit better than we received it, then what are we doing to society? If you don't take care of the land, the land is not going to take care of you," said Bud.
Jeffrey Bushong, grower manager for Pilgrim's in Virginia and West Virginia, has high praise for Bud.
"He is a very conscientious grower. He's truly is concerned about the environment and tries to do what's right. He's aggressive and looks ahead on issues around growing chickens, nutrient management and erosion. That's just the way he farms. I would say he is truly a leader in environmental farming. It's not just about making money for him, but doing what's right for the birds," Bushong said.
The environmental measure Bushong most appreciates is the biosecurity of his operation. Limiting visitors to the chicken houses and providing disinfecting pans that everyone must step in, including Bud himself, prior to entering the houses prevents the spread of disease. Keeping the area in and around the houses neat and mowed to keep rodents at bay, planting trees and fencing around the chicken houses, keeping the ventilation and the air quality good in the chicken houses, Bushong says, "all add up to a better environment for the chickens."
Feeding the World
Bud believes farmers should be more vocal about the invaluable contribution they make to the world.
"I have three chicken houses on 10 acres of land and raise more than 5 million pounds of chicken a year. You couldn't free range those birds and do that. We're helping to feed the world," Bud said.
In addition to being a contract chicken grower for Pilgrim's, Bud also raises 300 beef cows, manages a developmental program for the Hereford Association and plants 100 acres of hay.