Can a Small Poultry Business Bolster the Rural Economy?

Along with the recent interest in homesteading come concerns about rural economy. How can a small business make a difference in a rural area?

| October 2014

  • Goose
    A small poultry business mainly supported by the local community will benefit the rural economy through the movement of goods and cash within the community.
    Photo by Fotolia/cotzsss
  • Beyond the Chicken
    In "Beyond the Chicken," renowned author and poultry keeper Kelly Klober offers a wealth of information for aspiring poultry keepers looking for something other than chickens, whether water fowl or land, game birds or highly domesticated breeds.
    Cover courtesy Acres U.S.A.

  • Goose
  • Beyond the Chicken

While producing and selling chickens and eggs may remain the most common American poultry venture, Kelly Klober invites reader to explore the possibilities of other poultry varieties in Beyond the Chicken (Acres U.S.A., 2014). Practical advice interspersed with humorous personal anecdotes guides poultry producers through the process of creating or expanding an alternative poultry venture, raising and caring for each type of bird discussed and building a customer base in local markets. The following excerpt is from Chapter 8, “More than a Fad: Keeping the Poultry Renaissance Alive.”

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Beyond the Chicken.

So You Have a Poultry Business; Now What?

As diverse as poultry species are, they all pose the same question to potential producers: What, ultimately, is to be done with them? To what role and level will they be restored? There is no fast food chain featuring goose nuggets. There are no rural buying stations for ducks or pigeons. Nor are there stockyards for creatures that cackle, squawk, quack, gobble, or honk. These birds have held on in a few places because there were weekly community or consignment auctions where you would find some feathered stock in the offering. In my youth there were any number of small towns with mercantiles or feed stores that also bought eggs, spent hens, spring and summer fryers, and just about anything else with feathers.

I can still remember walking around the by then long-abandoned poultry pens at the old Alderson Bros. mercantile in our little country town. They were soon to be torn down, but I had seen them filled with birds and crowded coops, piled atop each other on the loading dock awaiting the transport trucks. I had walked them often in the past looking for a bird of unusual variety or color to take back home. The birds were generally all played out but were nonetheless traces of what poultry production had once been in our part of Missouri and in most other states.

Some of this culture is coming back, although it is still as delicate as the last of the feathers that blew through those old holding pens in our little country town back in the sixties. A place to sell them—actually many places—are essential if these birds are going to continue in any form beyond a mere novelty. With the growing roles of direct marketing and local foods there must be meeting places for producers and consumers, points of education and information sharing, building points for a new infrastructure, and gates through which money and support can flow to build new flocks and sustain those already about the task of flock building.

Time and again, studies have revealed that the best way to improve the rural economy and the way of life there is simply to improve farmer income. A dollar spent with a farmer will turn nine to thirteen times before it leaves the immediate community. It will move up and down Main Street from the farmer to the feed store to the local diner to the hardware store to the mom and pop grocery. Direct marketing returns more of the selling price to the farmer/producer than any other form of marketing. It is also the marketing system with the greatest level of transparency as the farmer and the consumer have to meet face-to-face and strike a bargain over the actual item.

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