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Get to Know Jenny, a Chicken Farmer and Agriculture Educator

Jennifer “Jenny” Rhodes owns and operates a family poultry and irrigated grain farm with her two sons, Chris and Ryan. They produce more than 500,000 broilers raised without antibiotics annually. Their farm feeds 30,000 people each year.   

Jenny is also an Extension Educator of Agriculture and Natural Resources for the University of Maryland Extension Queen Anne’s County. The main focuses of her educational programs are agriculture profitability programs, risk management, and poultry production education.  Jenny serves as past President of the Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., past President of Maryland Association of County Agriculture Agents and past member of Maryland Agriculture Commission.  

Given Jenny’s breadth of poultry experience and agriculture knowledge, we invited Jenny to answer a few questions about her family poultry farm and her thoughts on being a farmer.

How did you get into chicken farming?

I grew up in Centreville, Maryland on a grain and beef farm with my parents and four siblings. I started driving the tractor at the age of eight. My parents taught all of us to work on the farm as well as in our home. I was a 4-H and FFA member, then became a 4-H leader when my sons were in 4-H. Agriculture has always been a very important aspect of my life. I farm today in Centreville, Maryland, only seven miles from my parent’s farm.

I always wanted to own and operate my own farm and the poultry industry gave me that opportunity. I was able to borrow money from farm credit because I had a poultry contract that guaranteed me a base pay for each flock. I am a proud chicken farmer of 30 years and still counting. I have seen many changes in technology and conservation to increase efficiency while still protecting our environment. Today I have three grandsons 5, 3 and 1 years old. The two oldest grandsons love to be in the chicken house helping their Mom-Mom Jenny.

What do you love about chicken farming?

Working together with my family! I wanted to raise my sons just like I was raised, working together, working hard and learning responsibility. What is not to love about owning your own farm and raising healthy, safe and affordable food? I love that as a single mom I have taught my sons how to farm and today they both own their own chicken farms.

What’s your least favorite thing about chicken farming?

When people don’t understand what we do on our farms. Instead of asking us and learning they are quick to condemn us for what we do. I spend many hours hosting many tours on my farm from students to politicians. I am also very involved in social media. I want to be transparent about how we raise our chickens.

What’s one thing about chicken farming you wish more people would know?

I wish I could make them understand the gratification of receiving a baby chick that has just hatched that morning in a hatchery, then trucked to my farm in an environmentally controlled trailer and in a matter of 40 days that chick will be ready for the consumer’s table. I want people to understand we take great pride in raising our chickens. We nurture and care about our chickens.

What’s your favorite chicken dish? 

Baked chicken! Then with the leftovers I make our family’s homemade chicken salad.

Get a glimpse into a day in the life at Jenny’s poultry farm and her time as an educator: