Kay Doby raises a breed of meat goats called Hot Shots. But she’s the gutsy one. Kay used to work as a contract poultry grower for Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation and was President of the North Carolina Contract Poultry Growers Association. For fifteen years, she fought the unfair contract requirements that were putting her into debt. In 2007, Kay and other poultry growers took a trip to Washington, D.C. to speak up. Kay delivered a lengthy testimony to Congress, detailing the economically abusive power the company had over her and her fellow contract growers. Days after her testimony, Kay was among 40 growers fired by Pilgrim’s Pride. It took a law suit and a court settlement to obtain justice. Kay continued to fight for contract poultry growers facing what she had experienced for more than a decade. In 2010, she delivered another testimony at a DOJ/USDA hearing on antitrust in poultry (see a video of her testimony here). Afterward, Kay spoke at a D.C. press conference: “[An] ugly reality in poultry is that growers are often intimidated by company personnel. Growers that are here today know they are taking a big risk by being here and especially speaking about how things are done in the contract poultry business. I had a grower tell me that he was complaining to company personnel about the quality of chicks he received and the answer he got was, “You know you should just be glad you got a job.” She also continued to farm, they way she always wanted to. Kay loves the North Carolina tobacco land she grew up on and never thought to leave it. The earth beneath her feet is rich with history. It tells the story of four generations of Southern farmers connected to a livelihood of hard work. The termination of her job not only left her with massive debt, but also big, vacant poultry houses. Kay looked into viable ways to craft a business using her existing structures, and discovered opportunity in raising meat goats. She joined the North Carolina Meat Goat Cooperative and received a RAFI TCRF grant to finance everything to get Hot Shot Goat Farm up and running, converting her old poultry houses into something more useful. “I can finally do what I wanted to do on my own,” Kay said then. Now Kay feels no guilt about cramped birds in her houses. Her chickens run free and her goats graze nearby. “It feels good to be able to see the chickens out there, running around,” she says. “Before, the chickens were just in there. Now you can call them and they come to you. They act like chickens are supposed to act, if you know what I mean!” While we’ve highlighted Kay recently, we could not disregard her during our 30 Days of Thanks. We thank Kay for her daring and confident leadership and her commitment to sustainable farming. It is an honor to work by her side. Kay Doby, Hotshot Goat Farm: Converting Poultry Houses into Meat Goat houses from RAFI-USA on Vimeo. To nominate your favorite farmer or food hero for RAFI’s 30 Days of Thanks, click here.Follow along every day at rafiusa.org/30daysofthanksRAFI’s grant program is supported by a generous grant from the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.
Current policies offer little to protect growers against abusive contracts. Tell your senators to support amendments that protect livestock and poultry producers from unfair and deceptive contracting practices.
The Contract Farmer Organizer will conduct farmer outreach, build and maintain relationships with our farmer network, and collect research data along with contract farmers in livestock and other agricultural sectors.