NICHOLS, S.C. -- With nearly three decades of hard work and a commitment to responsible stewardship, Greg and Reida HugginCouops received the South Carolina Poultry Federation Grower of the Year Award for 2019.
Owners of Ashco Farm near Nichols, they were recognized for their leadership in environmental and community stewardship and their commitment to agriculture.
Huggins said he and his wife started their four-house poultry farm in 1993. Working year-round as a contract grower for Purdue Farms, Ashco Farm grows 110,000 birds per production cycle, with birds staying on the farm for 35 days.
According to the S.C. Poultry Federation website, contract poultry farming is when a company and a farmer decide to produce breeders, broilers, turkeys, quail or commercial laying hens by signing a contract between them. The company furnishes the feed that has been formulated by professional nutritionists to satisfy all the performance needs of the birds. A prospective poultry producer is expected to furnish and maintain the best possible housing, equipment and daily management to assure maximum performance.
Huggins said they focus on keeping the farm in top condition by upgrading equipment and facilities as needed and by managing with an understanding that effective poultry husbandry is a key component for excellent flock performance.
“We honestly try to provide a very good chicken product, and we do that by focusing on chicken health,” Huggins said. “Purdue Farms has been a great partner in this business. The Live Production Department with Lyn Price’s diligence and attention to detail has been great for us and Purdue. Lyn is a great leader and is very good at her job. Our flock supervisor, Dean Shuttleworth, provides us with everything we need to be successful.”
Shuttleworth said Ashco Farm does a very good job taking care of their birds.
“They are very deserving of the award,” Shuttleworth said. “Not only are they excellent growers, but they are also great people. They are diligent to keep their farm in top condition and they stand out among their fellow producers for high quality production.”
In addition to the chickens, they also have a 2,000-acre row-crop operation producing tobacco, corn, soybeans, peppers and cucumbers.
Prioritizing environmental stewardship, Huggins works closely with his local Natural Resources Conservation Service office. By participating in the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Huggins incorporated drip irrigation to improve the efficiency of water use. Ashco Farm also uses strip tillage and cover cropping to increase soil quality and reduce erosion.
“We try to do a good job of taking care of the chickens, crops and the environment,” Huggins said. “To do a good job, we need a reliable workforce, and we have been fortunate to have Pablo Arias working with us for 10 years. Pablo works these chickens on a daily basis. His attention to detail and dedication to bird welfare is absolutely vital to our farm’s performance. He is a very important part of Huggins Farms and a valuable asset to Ashco Farms.”
Along with Arias, the Huggins family is essential for the success of Ashco Farm, he said. The name of the operation came from combining the first names of their two children, Ashley and Cole.
“When the kids were little, they worked on the farm a lot,” Huggins said. “They are both still involved, and Cole is back working full time on the farm. We are planning for the next generation, and I believe the future of farming is bright in South Carolina, especially for farmers who are passionate about agriculture, open to innovative ideas and have a willingness to diversify.”
According to the SCPF website, the poultry industry in South Carolina represents 40 percent of all agriculture in the state and is 80 percent of animal agriculture. Poultry sales represent $1.5 billion per year.