If Glenn Rodes wasn't a turkey farmer, he'd be an engineer.
It might sound strange, but when you speak with Glenn, it's easy to see why. His love for designing, building, and problem solving is palpable, and you can hear in his voice how thankful he is for the turkey farm that acts as an outlet for his passion. His innate sense of ingenuity and thoughtfulness can be seen across family-owned-and-operated Riverhill Farms, launched in 1949 after Glenn's father borrowed $500 from an aunt to get things started. Four generations currently reside on the 860-acre farm located in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia. It's the same farm where Glenn was born and raised.
Over the years, Glenn has mastered the art of balancing tried-and-true techniques with the modern technology becoming more and more prevalent on farms across the U.S. One example: Glenn uses computers to control the temperature of the barns where his turkeys are kept but also uses old-fashioned thermometers as a back-up. Though not completely unusual for the farming industry, this computer-controlled technique is relatively cutting edge, with Glenn being one of its early adopters.
And although technology helps in terms of regulating the barns’ temperature, ventilation and lighting, the baby turkeys, or poults, are fed the same way they always have been: by hand.
Riverhill Farm is located in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virgina, though the region is so large, it covers nine different counties in Virginia and two counties in West Virginia. Known for its fertile soils, it's the ideal spot to grow crops or raise livestock. In fact, Glenn’s brothers run ventures of their own as part of Riverhill Farms; Allen cares for dairy cows, while Nelson is a crop farmer.
Sustainability is another area of passion for Glenn.
"To me, sustainability means you're doing a good job with what you have and are looking to the future to leave something for the next generation."
One of Glenn's sustainability "pet projects" is producing biodiesel right on the farm instead of completely relying on outside petroleum. As a result, he's able to produce 6,000 gallons of biodiesel a year that not only helps the farm, but over time, helps the environment, as well.
"We can grow and produce energy right on the farm which reduces our carbon footprint."
As an independent farmer, Glenn's able to incorporate these types of methods and innovations into his day-to-day operations. The independence gives him the freedom to raise the turkeys he knows best with the love and care that works best for his farm.
"There's a lot of enjoyment in producing something, and at the end of the day, you can see if you've made something happen."
Working alongside Glenn is his wife Sheri and other family members, from brothers and nephews, to their two daughters, to even Glenn's own parents who are in their late 80s. "My vision for the future is to continue running as a family operation."
Take a virtual tour of Glenn's family farm, Riverhill Farms. For a fully immersive experience, we suggest visiting this link on your mobile phone using the YouTube app and Google Cardboard.