With his permit approved, Colten Schafersman of Hooper, Nebraska, is looking forward to building a poultry barn on family farmland — a project he hopes will be lucrative enough to someday keep his own son in the family business.
The 25-year-old farms with his grandfather, John Snover, and he’s one of more than 100 farmers expected to raise chickens in Nebraska for retail warehouse giant Costco.
He was the first to be approved for permit to do so, by Dodge County officials.
He expects to invest nearly $2 million in the barns, to start construction this fall and be raising poultry by next summer. He’ll raise 53,000 hens and 7,000 roosters. The female “pullets” will be the birds laying the eggs that hatch into chickens destined to become dinner.
Schafersman is in the same boat as many young farmers: There isn’t enough income today from row-crop farming to bring grown children (or grandchildren, in his case) back into the family farm business.
Costco has pitched the chicken project to farmers by saying it takes just one full-time worker to run four barns, which can earn net income of over $100,000 a year. Schafersman is going into the chicken business with a loan co-signed by his grandparents, with the goal of using his proceeds to buy into the family farm business.
“This Costco project has really given me a great opportunity to invest my future, and my son’s and my wife’s, and just really fasten myself to the farm here,” Schafersman said.
Schafersman hears the concerns about what critics call industrial agriculture.
“I mean, that would be great if everybody could live off 10 chickens in their backyard,” he said. “That’s not the way the world is.”
He said he has a vested interest in sustainable farming.
“My family’s been here for 125 years, I have a 3-year-old son,” he said. “We earn a living off the resources. We’re not going to destroy it to make an extra buck.”