Nilsen Farms Receives USPOULTRY’s Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award
U.S. Poultry & Egg Association
Jan. 28, 2009
Nilsen Farms, located in Wilton, California, was selected as one of five family farms around the nation to receive the Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award at the 2009 International Poultry Exposition. This award is given by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association in recognition of exemplary environmental stewardship by family farmers engaged in poultry and egg production. The Nilsen Farms was chosen as the winner from the Western Region.
The history of Nilsen Farms began in the 1950’s when Norm Nilsen Sr. started raising chickens in the high desert of southern California. This highly successful business evolved into an egg farm and soon modified operations to process and carton eggs for retail distribution. The development of a poultry watering machine by Norm Sr. known as Swish would assist Norm Nilsen Jr. to begin his career in the poultry industry. With the unfortunate passing of Norm Sr., Norm Nilsen Jr. decided to relocate the poultry equipment manufacturing company to Wilton in Northern California.
Not long after relocating to Wilton, California, Norm Jr. constructed a 550,000 square foot poultry operation and entered into an agreement with Foster Farms to raise turkeys. Nilsen Farms now consists of three turkey facilities with a total production area of 650,000 square feet. In 2002 Nilsen Farms welcomed the next generation of the Nilsen family when Tim Nilsen, son of Norm Jr., entered the business. Along with Ben Gutierrez, son of Jesus Gutierrez who was production manager of the original egg operation in Southern California, Tim remodeled Nilsen Farm 1 and Nilsen Farm 2 to install tunnel ventilation systems. These systems improved operations and enhanced the welfare of the animals.
The Nilsens have made it a priority to advance programs that make their industry more sustainable. Proof of this is the development of a composting operation that works in conjunction with the poultry facilities. As each poultry barn is cleaned, litter is transferred to a composting facility adjacent to the farm. All material is screened and spread into windrows to facilitate the composting process. The process is tightly controlled to achieve proper pathogen reduction. Stormwater runoff from the composting facility is captured and transferred into a holding pond. This runoff is reused to obtain the moisture content necessary to optimally carry out the composting process. The composting material is utilized fully by organic farmers that operate in the area.
The Nilsens recognize that urban sprawl threatens the habitat of wildlife in California. Knowing that private landowners must be prepared to furnish wildlife habitats, the Nilsens purchased 480 acres of land adjacent to their farm along with Wildlands, Inc. in Sacramento, California. This property has been designated as permanent mitigation property to preserve and create vernal pools to support and protect species on California’s endangered species list.
Further evidence of their efforts to achieve environmental sustainability is the installation of solar panels on Nilsen Farms #3. Energy collected from the sun allows this facility to operate solely on solar power. In addition, Nilsen Farms lease 7 acres of land on their farm to a private company that has constructed a solar energy collection farm. Solar energy collected at this facility generates roughly one million watts of power and is purchased by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. This has allowed Sacramento Municipal Utility District consumers the option to purchase green energy to power their homes.
Applicants for the Family Farm Environmental Excellence Award were rated in several categories, including dry litter or liquid manure management, nutrient management planning, community involvement, wildlife enhancement techniques, innovative nutrient management techniques, and participation in education or outreach program. Applications and subsequent farm visits are conducted by a team of experts from universities, regulatory agencies and state trade associations to choose the national winners.