Not long ago, I had the opportunity to listen to Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin talk about the Main Street Project (mainstreetproject.org). As one of the speakers at a RegeNErate Nebraska event, Haslett-Marroquin clearly presented the profits and potential of regenerative poultry practices.
I am not a poultry owner and I am not interested in getting into the poultry industry. However, I like to eat chicken and I also like sharing entrepreneurial agricultural opportunities with people. Also, with all the debate out there about various ways to raise the chickens we eat, I found Haslett-Marroquin’s proven, researched ideas very positive because they can be implemented on a small number of acres in a pleasing, environmental fashion – all while being profitable too! If you’re passionate about poultry, his ideas are worth looking into.
According to the Main Street Project website, “In 2010, we began development and testing of a new model for producing free-range poultry as part of a sustainable regional food system that would be accessible to aspiring immigrants and other limited resource farmers. We worked with our trainees to develop prototype facilities and a specialized core curriculum including hands-on poultry production and business planning. We integrated perennial crops (hazelnuts and elderberries) to the basic production model as a way to maximize system efficiency and began production. We’re confident that our regenerative poultry model has the potential to scale up, deliver triple bottom line results and change how food is produced around the world.”
“This is the wisdom of generations that have come before us,” said Haslett-Marroquin, who grew up during the war period in Guatemala and learned about poultry from his mother and other relatives before later attending ag school. “I am an agronomist and I was able to learn a way of thinking from indigenous leaders and our ancestors from Europe, Guatemala, Native Americans and others . . . They gave us a way of looking at things and understanding life in a different angle.”
“Nature does not work in a linear fashion, but circular,” he noted, adding that in the current industrialized system, “Knowledge is not what we are missing. What we are missing is wisdom.”
Haslett-Marroquin said The Main Street Project calls their poultry production, “Tree Range Chickens,” that are raised in a multi-layer, regenerative system that includes upper canopy trees, middle canopy trees, annual vegetables, lower canopy shrubs, perennial ground cover, straw, mulch, poultry, poultry manure and sprouted grains. He said it is a carefully-thought-out approach, “Capturing all that free energy and eventually the system becomes completely self-reliant.”
One photo he showed featured a portion of the regenerative free-range system where chickens were grazing under a canopy of corn. He pointed out that while some chickens at that same time were dying under extreme summer heat in confined scenarios around them, poultry in his system were flourishing and cool under that natural system, “We are essentially building micro-climates for animal health in a natural way.”
Another compelling part of his presentation was the potential for profit. Haslett-Marroquin shared a couple profit scenarios that are possible when implementing his poultry-centered, regenerative agroforestry system. He said starting these practices on just 1.5 acres in the production of meat poultry by figuring two flocks of birds per year at a total of 4,500 birds (18,000 pounds/year), leads to a gross market value of chickens at $58,500. The farmer’s gross income at the farm gate in this scenario would be $33,750. After five years, 951 hazelnut bushes would be established producing 2,160 pounds of in-shell nuts with a farm gate value of $2,160, upping the gross farm income to $35,910.
When it comes to egg production, Haslett-Marroquin said on just three acres there could be 3,000 egg layers producing 175 dozen/day with a total production per year of 63,875 dozen. He added that the estimated farm-gate value of the eggs per dozen would be at $2.90.
Haslett-Marroquin wrote a book entitled “In the Shadow of Green Man” that outlines his story and approach to regenerative agriculture. He said, “Ignore the naysayers . . . Look at nature for your blueprints and strategy.”