Johnson uses his pasture poultry to teach economics
By CARYL VELISEK
KEEDYSVILLE, Md. — Dale Johnson and his family share a small backyard poultry project on their seven-acre farm, Antietam Glen on historic Antietam Creek in Washington County, Md. Johnson is a farm management specialist with the University of Maryland Extension and he has put together a study on the economics of a small backyard flock.
“Those backyard eggs are not free and can often end up costing more than store purchased eggs,” Johnson said. But most small flock owners would agree that having fresh eggs for breakfast and eggs for baking, omelets and other egg dishes, fresh, from your own chickens, would outweigh that factor.
Johnson grew up on a 700-acre potato and wheat farm in Idaho. He kept chickens as a child, and he and his wife, LeAnn, have raised their six children on backyard eggs and a large garden that provides most of the family’s vegetables and fruit.
“Our children have even sold vegetables from our home garden to local markets,” Johnson said.
“I think backyard chickens are a great hobby that can put food on the table and teach children many valuable lessons including a work ethic, agriculture and biology,” he said.
He also stressed the responsibilities that go with raising any livestock.
“Registering a flock with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and practicing good animal handling and good bio-security is a priority,” he said. “And people who do this also need to understand the economics of it. Chickens need daily attention and proper treatment.”
If asked for one key of a successful backyard poultry production, he, unhesitatingly replies, “No roosters!”
Besides helping to raise chickens and a large garden, the Johnson children have been active in Washington County 4-H and other projects. They have horses and LeAnn is a leader with the Saddles and Spurs 4-H Club and conducts the Washington County Horse Bowl Competition. In 2010 son, Mark, was on the State Horse Bowl Team that competed in the Nationals at Lexington, KY.
Johnson has been with Maryland Extension since 1985.
“I assist dairy farmers with financial analysis and planning. I conduct business planning and financial management workshops for all types of farms. I also teach farm management and sustainable food production in the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics at the University of Maryland, and have also conducted agricultural projects and given presentations in several other counties,” he said.
Johnson recently helped to organize the Mid-Atlantic Small Flock Poultry Expo last February in Westminster, Md., that was attended by more than 400 participants from seven states. Johnson, along with Extension agents, Jeff Semler and Michael Bell, is currently conducting a small flock project to demonstrate good production practices.
There is also a Backyard Flock Budget available by contacting: Dale Johnson, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, University of Maryland.
There will be a Small Flock Poultry Twilight Meeting at the Western Maryland Research and Education Center in Keedysville, on Aug. 21, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. To register for the meeting, call 301-791-1304.