CLEMSON — After retiring from a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy, Brian Catoe wanted his next professional endeavor to be as rewarding as his first, or close.

He’s found his next calling in agriculture, purchasing 37 acres in Lancaster County with plans to grow vegetables and raise chickens for eggs to sell to restaurants and at farmers markets.

“I was in the military for 20 years, so I was doing something that I thought mattered,” Catoe said at last week’s backyard poultry workshop conducted by Clemson Extension in Spartanburg. “I want to support my community.”

Perhaps nowhere is society’s growing interest in agriculture and locally sourced food more visible than at an Extension workshop on raising chickens in backyards.

That renewed interest in locally sourced food also is evident in the number of recent ordinance changes to allow backyard chicken coops within urban areas. Many of South Carolina’s major cities allow residents to raise hens for eggs, for example, including Columbia, Charleston, Spartanburg, Aiken and others. Last year, one of the state’s fastest-growing cities, Greer, voted to allow residents to raise chickens in their backyards.

Extension is helping South Carolina residents satisfy their appetites for profitable, productive, healthy backyard poultry operations with a series of workshops, the latest of which was last week in Spartanburg. Some of these workshops have attracted nearly 60 attendees. Another backyard poultry workshop is being planned for the fall in Florence. For an online listing of Clemson Extension events, click here.

The workshops cover poultry nutrition, housing and management, equipment, disease prevention, pastures, reproduction, marketing, predator control and other topics related to establishing and maintaining a healthy, productive backyard poultry operation for commercial operators or hobby farmers. The Spartanburg workshop also included an introduction to the various requirements imposed by local ordinances in South Carolina.

“The primary reason I am here is for the networking. The education is great, but the connections you make are invaluable,” Catoe said, referring to the number of Clemson specialists and farmers he met at the workshop.

Catoe said he has worked closely with Clemson Extension since acquiring land to develop a farm.

Instructors at the lastest workshop included Julie Helm, veterinarian at Clemson Livestock-Poultry Health; Clemson Extension Livestock agents Lee Van Vlake and Christopher LeMaster; and Mickey Hall, associate professor of animal science at Clemson.