By Stan Maddux
WHITE PIGEON, Mich. – A broiler farm is making history for being the first producer of chickens for meat in Michigan to run on energy from the sun.
The achievement was made possible with financial help from USDA. Stutzman Poultry Farms in White Pigeon in July flipped the power switch to the 425,000 kilowatts of energy being produced annually from the 870 recently installed solar panels.
When it’s sunny, the system banks energy the farm taps into when solar production is diminished on cloudy days. The operation is in the southwest part of the state.
Mat Stutzman, third-generation owner of the farm, expects to realize enough of a return on the investment to assure the operation is here for years to come.
He also cited the environmental benefits from lowering demand for energy produced by coal fired power plants whose greenhouse emissions are blamed as a contributor to global warming.
“The switch to solar was an easy choice for the future of our farm to ensure our grandkids can continue to operate our farm long into the future in a way that is healthy for our community and our planet,” he said.
Stutzman said the move is also an extension of the earth-friendly practices taking root there more than a half century ago.
“Our commitment to green energy carries on our legacy of sustainability which started when my grandfather began farming here in 1961 with smarter land and water management, planting cover crops and utilizing organic fertilizer,” he said.
A grant from USDA’s Rural Energy for America program helped cover the $650,000 cost of going solar at the farm, which worked on the project for about two-years.
“This is our first project in this area of the state and it’s an excellent model for others looking to switch to solar energy,” said Jason Allen, USDA Rural Development state director for Michigan.
There are 20 broiler farms in Michigan primarily in the southern part of the state.
Allen said his office is working closely with other farms in that region to go solar and use other forms of renewable energy.
“I urge other rural businesses to contact us to see how we can help them,” he said.
Stutzman Poultry Farms raises chickens for Miller Poultry based in Orland, Ind. The chickens are sold nationwide under the brand names of Miller Amish Country, Katie’s Best and Pine Manor Farms.
According to the Michigan Allied Poultry Industry (MAPI), 6.2 million broilers are raised annually in Michigan with expansion planned over the next five years. Georgia was the leading U.S producer in 2018 at more than 130 million broilers followed closely by Alabama and Arkansas, according to USDA. North Carolina, Mississippi and Texas were next in line, USDA said. More than 900 million broilers were produced nationwide in 2018.
According MAPI, chicken is the most often chosen source of protein in the United States, which consumes more poultry than any other country at 89.6 pounds on average for each individual.