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Large, small egg producers spell success in Indiana and Ohio
By Doug Graves           
Ohio Correspondent

JOHNSTOWN, Ohio – Scrambled, sunny side up, poached, hard-boiled, over easy – no matter how you prefer them, the fresh eggs in your refrigerator likely came from Indiana or Ohio.
Credit Iowa farmers for being ranked first in the United States in egg production. Roughly 8,000 people work in the egg production industry in the Hawkeye State. According to the Iowa Egg Council, there are 45 million laying hens that produce more than 15 billion eggs every year.
Next in line, however, are Indiana and Ohio, with annual egg production of 10.6 billion and 10.4 billion respectively.
The Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service valued the state’s egg industry at more than $422 million, thanks to the success of both large and small-scale operations. The poultry industry in the Hoosier state hires 7,000 workers annually.
Indiana’s top producer of eggs is Rose Acre Farms with headquarters in Seymour. Rose Acre Farms now produces close to 440 million dozen eggs per year. Rose Acre runs 40 locations in six states, but embrace their strong connection to the Hoosier State, where the company was founded in 1933.
“We’re a multistate operation, but we’re still family-owned,” said Mark Whittington, vice president of risk management at Rose Acre. “We like to maintain that family-business feel.”
Rose Acre Farms is the second-largest egg producer in the United States and employs more than 2,000. Besides Indiana, the company has facilities in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina, plus joint ventures in Colorado and Hawaii.
Ohio has 36 million laying hens. The egg industry in the Buckeye State contributes more than $3 billion to Ohio’s economy.
The largest egg producer in Ohio is Trillium Farms. Established in central Ohio in 2011, Trillium Farms has grown to be one of the nation’s leading egg producers, producing roughly 3.65 billion eggs annually. The company’s operations include pullets, cage-free pullets, egg layers and cage-free layers. Trillium Farms flocks consume 10,000 tons of feed each week.
The heart of the company is in Croton and Jamestown, with additional locations in Larue, Marseilles and Mt. Victory.
Smaller egg producers, though, add to the overall egg picture in both states. In Indiana, there are 6,009 farmers in the state with layers; 5,500 of those farms operate with less than 100 layers. In Ohio, there are 10,695 chicken farms and 10,005 of those raise less than 100 layers.
At Akers Hatchery and Eggs in Salem, Ind., Craig Akers and his wife, Lindsey, and their two young daughters, each day begins with collecting eggs from the approximately 350 hens in their small, family-run hatchery.
The family hatches their own chicks by putting eggs in an incubator, where they stay for 21 days until hatching occurs. Craig said the chickens usually don’t start laying until they’re about five months old. Unlike many other egg operations, they produce new hens out of the existing flock, choosing not to bring in poultry from other places.
“We’re family self-sufficient, “Akers said. “We raise our own chickens and breed for what the standard of that chicken is.”
The family grinds their own feed, consisting of corn, alfalfa, calcium and a protein supplement.
“We have an automatic water system that catches rainwater and pipes it through the coops and buildings,” Akers said. “But in the winter, we have to carry fresh water to the chicken houses every day.”
Theirs is a small-scale operation as they don’t supply to grocery stores. Customers come to their farm.
“There are so many other places that people can go and get eggs, but we have very loyal customers that come to us year-round in snow, rain or shine. People like our product and what we do.”
The Akers Hatchery produces between 15 dozen and 18 dozen eggs per day, and has chicks for sale, allowing customers to start raising their own hens for eggs.
In Johnstown, Ohio, sits regenerative Copia Farm. Located just outside of Columbus, this farm is home to about 3,000 chickens on pasture. Copia Farm is one of 50 poultry farms in the state raising under 3,200 birds. This 40-acre farm includes ponds, a wandering creek, meadows and plenty of mature trees. Still, it is considered a small egg operation.
Husband and wife Dan McLeod and Caitlin Bergman own and manage the small farm. The two met at a sustainable farming course in Australia. Prior to working together, Bergman was the permaculture curator and instructor at the Los Angeles Arboretum & Botanic Garden. McLeod received his advanced permaculture design certification from Geoff Lawton, a British-born Australian permaculture consultant and speaker.
They said their business has increased by about 300 percent since the pandemic hit and they believe it’s because people want to see where their food comes from and know how it’s produced.
“Our approach to farming is through the eyes of earth stewards,” McLeod said. “All of our practices build healthy soil, clean water, happy animals and a thriving community. Our extensive background in teaching permaculture is our farm’s north star.”
Added Bergman, “With COVID, the challenge has actually been meeting the demand that has just sprouted overnight and has been such a tremendous demand. It really caught us off guard because we were at the end of the winter season and everyone was coming out of the woodwork.”
Their eggs can be found at markets throughout central Ohio. They sell their eggs and other products at their store in Johnstown and are set to have another location in Dublin, Ohio.