Dunbarton officials, farmer continue to discuss chicken farm
DUNBARTON — The Planning Board and farmer Tom Giovagnoli have more work to do if his proposed egg production facility is to be built.
Giovagnoli said he will provide information requested by the Planning Board on how he will control manure and noise when his 20,000 hens roam an outdoor pen daily from noon to dusk. The Planning Board will review reports from an outside engineering firm on the plan’s design components, and the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission regarding zoning and planning regulations. The next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 18.
Giovagnoli and his team, attorney John Cronin and engineer Jennifer McCourt, faced the board and residents for the third time at a Nov. 20 public hearing about his proposed 27,000-square-foot barn to house 20,000 hens at his Twist Hill Road farm. Giovagnoli plans to sell eggs produced by his cage-free and organic-certified hens to Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs of Monroe.
In the past, Giovagnoli was asked to address potential impacts on surrounding properties such as water and air quality and devaluation. But response at the Nov. 20 meeting was a little different as some residents spoke in support of his plan.
“I’m glad to see some of the residents have come out in support. We seem to be getting less and less people not attending the meeting, whether they’ve come to understand my intentions or not,” he said. “The people supporting it got cheers and applause.”
Giovagnoli said he thinks the manure produced outside of the barn is not an issue, but he will speak to University of New Hampshire agricultural experts and the Department of Agriculture about ways to handle the manure.
“A lot of people have their animals outside. There’s plenty of people who have permits for horses and cows, and they don’t tell them where the animals can poop,” he said. “What’s the difference between horses being outside, chickens being outside or turkeys being outside?”
Giovagnoli said his land was once a turkey farm owned by Roland Godbout, who housed about 8,000 free-range turkeys.
As far as noise is concerned, Giovagnoli said there will be no roosters on his property, just egg-laying hens.
“You won’t hear cock-a-doodle-do in the morning; chickens just cluck,” he said.
He has also received a conservation plan from the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Concord to safeguard air quality, soil and water. The agency works with farmers on manure management and nitrate impacts by taking soil and manure samples, and recommends the amount of fertilizer farmers need for their fields. He intends to adhere to proper fertilization of his soil, and the remaining manure will be sold to other farmers, he said.
“The only problem would be if you over fertilize and why would I do that? Why would I dump manure all over the field. It’s like throwing it out instead of selling it,” he said.
On an average, 10 tons of manure is needed per acre and can be sold at $10 per yard. He said he has a customer with 300 acres and others who will be fighting over the manure.
“If I produce 800 tons a year, that would be enough for 80 acres. I know it sounds like a lot, but I won’t even be producing enough to go around,” he said.
Giovagnoli also said his proposed barn will not be the largest building in the area, contrary to some claims. He said his barn will be 46 feet wide, while horse barns in the area are about 80 feet wide. He said chickens only need a building with 8 feet tall walls. Also, he said, he is proposing building his barn a quarter of a mile from the road.
“If I was proposing a horse barn, no one would have batted an eye,” he said.
Several abutters at the meeting said the proposed 60-foot buffer of trees surrounding the barn is not enough to control odor and keep the barn out of sight.
“I’ll plant some more pine trees along that edge. Everything will be addressed,” he said.
If his plan is approved, Giovagnoli said people will be glad that some of his land and neighboring land-locked properties, about 135 acres in all, were not subdivided.
“Once the barn is up and running I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised, and be thankful it wasn’t built as a development. If I put a barn on it, it will guarantee I won’t subdivide it. At the end of the day, I want a farm,” he said.