Woolf Farms is owned and operated by Earl “Sonny” Woolf, Jr., his fiancé Whitney and their three kids in Mayfield, Kentucky. Five and a half years ago, Sonny purchased an existing poultry farm on 67 acres that included six chicken houses and started raising birds for our Obion County Complex. In 2018, he added two more chicken houses.
Sonny says they were drawn to that farm because they could hunt and fish on the property, and that’s how they like to spend their time when they aren’t farming. “It’s our own slice of heaven,” he calls it.
“Farming allows me to work for myself and not have to punch a clock every day,” says Sonny. “Tyson means a lot to me because they gave me the opportunity to farm and fulfill our dreams, allowing me to work in the agricultural industry and provide for my family.”
This year, the Woolf family won the Kentucky Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award from the Kentucky Poultry Federation, which gives special recognition to farm families for their outstanding environmental stewardship efforts.
Sonny’s reaction to winning was, “Wow!” It means a lot to him to be recognized for all of the daily hard work that goes into running a farm, and he’s honored to be able to make a positive impact on the environment so his children can have a future in farming.
As the poultry industry is ever changing, Sonny continues to make upgrades that are focused on increasing productivity and energy efficiency.
Inside the chicken houses, upgrades include LED lights to reduce kilowatts per hour and radiant heaters that use significantly less propane. Future plans include re-insulating the walls and ceilings.
Outside, Sonny had a pond constructed that is now a natural reservoir that aids in slowing run-off and holds excess water. Water conservation ponds can help enhance the environment by offering a self-sustaining cycle of hydration that keeps plants and local wildlife alive. They can also help maintain soil moisture, even on the hottest days in Graves County.
After construction, semi-permanent straw blankets were used to help control soil erosion. This practice involves the application of organic material to form temporary, protective soil covering. Straw blankets can help control runoff and erosion on disturbed land prior to establishment of vegetation.
Another critical component of farm management are good biosecurity practices, which can help reduce the spread of avian disease. Only essential visitors are allowed on the farm, and they are required to use bleach footbaths, located at the entrance of each house to disinfect footwear. Additionally, a rodent control program is in place.
Litter management is also very important. Litter refers to organic waste like manure, spilled feed, feathers, and bedding materials. Woolf Farms sells 90% of their poultry litter to local row crop farmers for fertilizer and keeps the other 10% to fertilize their own 40 tillable acres for crops. Sonny adds that as part of litter management, he takes litter samples for land application analysis to help maintain a balance of nutrients in the soil.
Independent farmers, like the Woolfs, are the foundation of our business. Their conservation of natural resources is critical to sustainably feeding the world. We are proud of the Woolfs as farmers and stewards of the land.