USDA rules allowed an exemption for small producers (less than 20,000 birds per year) that allowed them to process and sell their chicken broilers without using a USDA-inspected facility.
However, back in the 70's Maryland set a higher standard than federal regulations, and required poultry to be processed at either a state or federally (USDA)-regulated facility if it was to be sold off-farm.
Fast-forward 30 years, and Maryland (as do many places in the United States) finds itself without a state-inspection program for meat-processing and NO USDA-inspected poultry processors that accept 'other farmers' birds.
Functionally, this means that a farmer could still sell chickens direct-to-consumer on the farm, but could not drive down the road to his regular farmer's market and sell to his local customers clamoring for this product.
After some hard work on the part of Maryland farmers and our state Senator and Delegate, a new state program was established that now allows farmers to sell direct to consumers at farmer's markets and grocery stores, and direct to restaurants.
This really opens up the marketplace to farmers wanting to supply farm-fresh, local products to their community. Chicken is the most popular meat consumed by Americans and previously, local producers were shut-out by these antiquated, out-dated laws.
It was hard to explain to our customers why we weren't able to provide them with the products they wanted to buy and it was unreasonable to expect a consumer to drive 20 or 30 miles just to buy a chicken.
In direct response to this program, we have restarted our small-scale poultry operation for broiler chickens raised on pasture, a program we had previously abandoned because of these unreasonable laws.
Here are some of our broilers being raised on pasture for harvest in a few more weeks.
You should start seeing Whitmore Farm chickens, turkeys and rabbit for sale at Maryland Farmers' Markets and in restaurants like VOLT and NOLA in Frederick Maryland.
Special thanks go to:
Senator David Brinkley and his Chief of Staff, Mike O'Halloran.
Delegate Chris Shank
Farmers Julie Bolton (Groff's Content Farm), Julie Stinar (Evensong Farm), & Mike Akey (Green Akeys Farm)
Liz Reitzig, MICFA
Ryan Cunningham, The Glover Park Group.