Grower of the Month - June 2012
West Fork Farm in Clermont, Georgia
Spotlight on West Fork Farm in Clermont, Georgia
Pilgrim's is proud to honor Todd Chapman, of West Fork Farm in Clermont, Georgia,
as its June 2012 Grower of the Month. Chapman is consistently in the top third of
growers for the Pilgrim's Gainesville, Georgia, complex in production and performance.
Colin Millwood, a service tech at Gainesville, says Chapman is a highly involved
farmer, making farming his full-time job.
West Fork Farm sits on 140 acres with 12 chicken houses and a small cattle herd.
Chapman is a broiler farmer, producing chickens for retail consumption. His farm
produces 306,000 chickens per flock, and he manages an average of five-and-a-half
flocks per year. That's a tremendous 1.68 million chickens per year that his farm
Chapman stays on top of the chickens' comfort with daily diligence on the farm,
walking through the chicken houses several times a day to ensure that their safety,
temperature and water levels are in order. Maintaining proper temperatures, especially
in the hot and humid Georgia summers, is vital to a chicken's health. Temperatures
must be adjusted from very warm when the chicks are delivered, to gradually getting
cooler as the chickens reach maturity.
In addition to chicken houses, Chapman grows cash crops on several acres of his
land. He traditionally grows corn, and this year he's trying his hand at a soybean
crop. He also runs a cattle operation, growing calves to about seven or eight months
old and then selling them to other farmers, who grow them for consumption.
Sustainability: Key Concept in Planning for the Future
In order to ensure the future production of his farm, Chapman participates in a
sustainability program, which he began in 2007, with the Agriculture Conservation
Program of the Hall County Soil and Water Conservation District. The program consists
of fencing cows out of the creeks, adding stream bank protection, installing water
facilities, constructing a dead bird composter and litter storage facility, and
instigating a nutrient management protocol. Litter and composted birds are spread
over his crop fields as fertilizer. Chapman has also installed hard surface areas
around the cattle troughs, to maintain a higher level of cleanliness.
As a result of Chapman's farming practices, he was awarded the 2000 Outstanding
Hall County Conservation Farmer of the Year award by the Hall County Soil and Water
Conservation District, the 2000 Farmer of the Year award by the Hall County Chamber
of Commerce, and the Rotary Club Farm Family of the Year award in 2004.
Chapman says he "fell into" poultry farming because of his father's connection to
it. Mitch Chapman, Todd's father, worked for ConAgra, part of which Pilgrim's acquired
in 2003, and also had a nearby chicken farm, which he leased out, when Chapman was
"My dad was in the chicken business over the years and I just fell into it to,"
recalls Chapman. "He worked for the poultry company. He actually had a poultry farm
too, but he didn't live on that farm. Someone else lived on it and looked after
it while he worked for the chicken company. He later went on to other things."
On a nearby farm, his parents, Mitch and Ruth, have returned to poultry farming,
also with Pilgrim's.
"He and his dad have chicken houses close together there," says Millwood. "If one
has something to do, the other helps him take care of it."
FFA Roots Produce Farming Family
Chapman also credits his experience with Future Farmers of America as a motivator
to take up farming. Becoming a farmer was a process, however. Prior to joining ConAgra
16 years ago, Chapman spent 15 years in construction.
Chapman and his wife, Sheila, a branch manager at the United Community Bank in Clermont,
are raising three children: Jess (11), Whitney (9) and Jacob (6) on West Fork Farm.
The children help hand feed the baby chicks, put out feed, pick up feeder lids and
clean out the chicken houses with their father.
"Occasionally there are some things they can do; as they grow older, there's more
they can help with," says Chapman.
The family attends Chicopee Baptist Church and Chapman believes the farm life is
great for raising kids.
More Than Farm Skills - Life Skills
"I think it's a plus in a lot of ways," remarks Chapman. "Looking after animals
teaches them responsibility and work ethics. I think it helps to keep them out of
trouble too, as long as you can keep them busy."
Character is something the Chapman children will likely inherit from their father,
as he inherited from his.
"He's a good fellow, a nice guy, honest and dependable. His father is the same type
of fellow," says Millwood.
Chapman says he loves farming although some days are harder than others.
"I guess my favorite part is watching things grow," says Chapman. "I like raising
stuff and producing."