Successful Transfarmations

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  • Halley Farm

  • Craig Watts

Craig Watts Is Transfarming His Former Poultry Farm

The Watts family has been farming for a long time—so long, in fact, that one family member has the original land grant from King George. After traveling the United States for a few years for work, Craig Watts “got the bug” to go back home to the family land. Craig began raising chickens under contract, work presented to him as an opportunity to earn a good living. After 23 years, having suffered many injustices as a contract grower, he left the industry.

Craig has been brave enough to speak out against industrial chicken production and the ways companies force their contract growers into a cycle of debt. In 2014, he began working with Leah Garcés, now president of Mercy For Animals, to tell his story. This unlikely partnership inspired Garcés to found Transfarmation and work with farmers to find alternatives to factory farming.

The New York Times and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver have featured Craig’s story, and Farm Aid has spotlighted Craig as a farmer hero.

Now Craig is working with Transfarmation to build his family a new kind of farming operation—one that contributes to his community and land instead of exploiting them. He wants his new operation to be “as removed from the industrial model as can be.” When we asked Craig why he wants to be a farmer, he said: “It’s part of me, in the blood. It’s a calling. I like to watch things grow.”

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The top 4 percent of farms account for 69 percent of U.S. farm sales, while the bottom 76 percent of farms make up a mere 3 percent of sales.

Forty-five percent of U.S. farmers have a negative net income. The median net poultry farm income was $13,140 in 2018, meaning half the poultry farmers in the country earned less than this amount.

Four percent of U.S. farms control 58 percent of farmland, while 13 percent of U.S. farms control 0.14 percent of farmland.

Fifty-five percent of poultry farms have debt, while 67.7 percent of dairy farms have debt.

Family farm Chapter 12 bankruptcies grew by almost 20 percent from 2018 to 2019. Ninety-five percent of dairy farms are family farms. There were 3,281 fewer dairy milk operations in 2019 than in 2018.