Macon County’s own Barefoot Farmer, Jeff Poppen, has announced his intention to close down his longtime operation, Long Hungry Creek Farm, after the arrival of a Tyson chicken farming operation next door.
Poppen operates a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm in Red Boiling Springs, supplies fresh veggies to both individuals and restaurants in the Nashville area, is a known speaker and writer in the organic farming community, and has appeared on WNPT’s “Volunteer Gardener” Show. He has lobbied against the neighboring farm since they began operations over a year ago.
He stated in a website blog at the beginning of the dispute, “My business, my gardens, and my home are all threatened by two Cobb (Tyson) chicken houses being built within 500 feet of my home and farm…This weighs heavily on me. I love Macon County and want to continue to bring money and people here, and to keep improving my farm and business. I can’t do this 500 feet down hill, downstream and downwind from 40,000 chickens.”
A group called Friends of Long Hungry Creek Farm was formed to lobby against project last year. In the meantime, Cobb company representatives have maintained the company’s position that the farm is not a business, and therefore will not interfere with their policy of not building chicken farms within 1,500 feet of businesses, schools, or public areas.
Lundy Russell is operating the chicken farm, under contract with Cobb-Vantress Inc., which is a subsidiary of Tyson Foods. Russell and Tyson maintain that the farm complies with state regulations.
“We at Cobb-Vantress are serious about our responsibility to operate with integrity. In fact, we have been working with other family farmers in the area who have already built and are operating chickens houses and they have received no complaints from their neighbors,” said Worth Sparkman, manager of public relations for Tyson Foods Inc. “We want to assure you we intend to continue to work with our contract family farmers in a responsible way.”
Poppen has stated that he plans to start over with another operation about five miles from his current location; he has not indicated when he plans to begin this, or how long it would take.
Alan Powell, who has run Nashville distribution operations for Poppen in the past, told the Tennessean, “I can’t imagine he will give up farming because it’s what he likes to do. Ultimately, I don’t think he knows how this will all pan out in the end. He doesn’t trust the land he has lived on and farmed for over 20 years, and will stop producing food there so as not to risk his customers’ health.”