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This Farmer Traded In Chickens for Hemp, and He’s Not Alone

Over the past few decades, consumers have become increasingly aware of the environmental problems associated with factory farming, as well as inhumane conditions for animals. But most people are still unaware that many farmers are also exploited.

The Atlantic recently published an article about Mike Weaver, a former contract chicken farmer for Pilgrim’s Pride in West Virginia who went public with his concerns over the treatment of animals. He later quit raising chickens and now uses his old chicken barns to grow industrial hemp, a business venture that will earn him more income than chicken farming did and employ four times as many people in a region desperate for new jobs.


The article also featured a discussion with Mercy For Animals’ president, Leah Garcés, about the ill treatment many farmers suffer at factory farms. For example, most farmers who raise chickens do so on a contract basis for major meat companies, like Tyson Foods. But many farmers are akin to “indentured servants” in these contract relationships. They take on massive debt, often struggle to pay it off, and have little to no control over their operations.

Numerous contract poultry farmers have blown the whistle to expose how the system harms farmers, animals, and consumers. One such pioneer is Craig Watts, who was profiled in the New York Times after he blew the whistle with Leah Garcés, the head of Compassion in World Farming USA at the time.

Farmers know the food and farming system better than anyone, and they are as eager as entrepreneurs, activists, and other changemakers to join in constructing a better food system. We believe they can and should be part of the change.

That’s why Mercy For Animals’ newest venture, the Transfarmation Project, offers an avenue for farmers to participate in this rebuilding, to become part of the solution and leave the problem behind. Our mission is to support farmers in transitioning out of animal agriculture and into growing crops used for plant-based products. The result will be a better future for farmers and their families, consumers, animals, and the planet.

The plant-based food industry is expected to be worth $85 billion by 2030. To get there, plant-based food producers will need a reliable source of key ingredients, such as peas, mushrooms, oats, and greens. Similarly, the demand for hemp as food, textile fiber, and medicine is growing. The Transfarmation Project partners with farmers to help them transition to plant production and then connects them with businesses in need of their products. It’s a true win-win.

Are you a farmer, investor, entrepreneur, food industry expert, or academic eager to build a compassionate food system? Check out the Transfarmation Project for more information on how you can get involved.
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