GREENVILLE — Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) representatives conducted a public meeting Tuesday night to hear comments from area residents on a draft Permit to Install and a draft Permit to Operate for the fGolden Heritage Egg Farm, proposed to be located at 13285 Rhynard-Fink Road in Allen township.
Nearly 150 people attended the event in the Youth Building at the Darke County Fairgrounds, but those who wanted to speak were given only three minutes to do so. An open house was held an hour prior to the public meeting.
The ODA reps recorded the proceedings to ensure accuracy. Results from Tuesday’s questions and statements will be answered and returned in approximately two weeks.
Sam Mullins, chief of the Division of Livestock Permitting, led the discussion and explained the proposal on the impending facility as well as the rules of the meeting.
“This meeting is required by law, and I ask you to refrain from outbursts,” Mullins said. “The Director of Agriculture will review these comments, but the staff here won’t make any comments. Your comments must pertain to the draft permit.”
Fifteen people — men and women, children and adults — spoke out on their thoughts against the proposal. Here are some of the excerpts from those comments:
“I’m against it,” said Leon Kissinger of Rossburg. “Our place is already saturated with too many houses. Their (chickens) smell goes everywhere. I had to drill a new well. We have our rights too.”
Jerry Duncan remarked, “I only live less than a mile from the farm they want to come in. We were originally told there would be three barns and cage-free. That won’t work.”
A couple of little Rossburg girls read their letters, letting people know how they love Rossburg, playing outside and in the creek and one said she was even terrified, that she loved her town and would like to continue to live there.
“We’ve been through this,” said Mrs. Brad Birt of New Weston. “They told me we had plenty of water and our wells went dry and nobody came to our aid. Then, it got worse. There is not enough water here. When they run out of water, they’ll all leave and we’re left here.”
“I’m also concerned with the water,” stated Tom Wentworth. “Approximately 200,000 gallons a day will be used out there. I think we’ll get the smell and Eldora will get the smell. This will drive business out of the county. I’m concerned about the ground water. We’re already having pollution issues.”
Julie Sanders remarked, “I live on Houk Road just west of the facility. My house is on the path of the smell. We’ll be affected by traffic. We established our property the last 18 years and it will decrease the property of my home. Take my natural resources away from me, raise my taxes..sounds like bullying.”
Stacy Moody who lives on McFeeley-Petry commented, “I am probably the closest to the farm. I won’t give them permission for ponds to be part of that. My well is 93 feet deep; theirs is 300. What will that do to the water? Where is that chemcial going? Semis still come down my road. Why go down our road when they could come down a wider highway?”
Mrs. Joe Osterloh stated, “I worry for the already existing farmers and produce. These are public health risks. There will be potential job losses to small-time farmers. What kind of accountability will there be if things (go awry)?”
Joe Osterloh said, “These jobs won’t be able to be filled locally. If this is allowed to be built, will you be helping us out financially if we fail?”
Ray Prasuhn said, “I was always told good neighbors help one another out. According to the Center for Disease Control, the air is highly toxic for children and adults.”
“I have lived beside a chicken house for 20 years,” said James Stachler of Cocdhran Road. “And, I’m still alive. What’s going to happen to our turkeys? This is strictly a convenience thing in this area. I have had 30 years of experience with odor and traffic. We’ve had to raise our voice. We have hogs. I had flies when manure was hauled from the chicken house. Build it somewhere else.”
Gretchen Schmitmeyer got emotional when she spoke, “I’ve lived with my husband and three children on Hiestand Road for eight years. I absolutely love my life on the small country road. On May 18, 2019, I was finalizing plans for a child suffering from cancer and someone came to our door proposing this chicken farm. How are we to share our voice? Show us we won’t run out of water and that it won’t get contaminated. If we have no water, we’ll have nothing. We already have eight million birds in less than five miles already. I would like to have an environmental impact study done. ODA only cares about chickens, not humans.”
Her husband, Joey, spoke, “We only get three minutes to speak. We never get to meet with the owners. I was devastated when I heard the news. The phones began ringing at this point. This pits neighbors against the other. Will the state representatives stand with us? Legally told, we can do nothing. It smells of greed and money. Where are the owners? They’re not reaching out to us and explaining to us and be a good neighbor.”
Schmitmeyer also asked for an environmental impact study to be done.
“Protect our future,” he said. “I pray for no more factory farms here.”
“Since May 22, I have been daily researching,” said Jessie Sink Penix of Rossburg holding up two hand full of notebooks. “For my husband Chad, our four children and I, this area means a lot to our family and our neighbors. This facility will be our neighbors. We have never been contacted by the owners. There is a rise in cancer in children in our area. Currently, Darke is number two in factory farms. We have enough. I’ve been threatened, bullied and called names, including stupid. Do four million chickens matter more than people who live here?”
The ODA will still be accepting written statements until 5 p.m. Nov. 5. Send to: Comments Department of Agriculture, Division of Livestock Environmental Permitting, A.B. Graham Building, 8995 E. Main St., Reynoldsburg, OH 43068.
Contact Staff Writer Linda Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (937)569-4315 ext. 1749. Read more news, features and sports at DarkeCountyMedia.com.