Michigan egg producers visit what they hope is home to future poultry ranch in Mercersburg

ZACH GLENN, The Record Herald Contact Zach Glenn at 762-2151, or on Twitter: @zglenn_RH

Most people like to meet their neighbors right after they move into a new place, but Greg and Herb Herbruck of Herbruck's Poultry Ranch want to meet their neighbors before they move in.

The Herbrucks want people to know what their plan is prior to them having their permits.

The brothers are anywhere from 12-to-24 months away from being able to move into an undisclosed part of the Mercersburg area. Still they said during a meeting last week at the Franklin County Area Development Corporation offices that they wanted to make their future neighbors aware of their plans because it was the neighborly thing to do.

They did reveal that a property they are considering for the expanion is a dairy farm on Shimpstown Road.

Already in the business

The Herbrucks want to mirror some of what they've done in their hometown of Saranac, Michigan to help foster the goodwill of the community.

"We've been getting to know fire departments because they provide a very important community service and we try to give to them whenever they ask for it and sometimes even when they don't. We also donate eggs to Feeding America (a non-profit that gives them to food banks,) to us it's just part of being a good neighbor," said Greg Herbruck, vice president of Herbruck's Poultry Ranch.

Greg also said that the two have already received a warm reception in the area.

"(Reception has been) pretty good. There's a lot of questions to answer with folks asking about our footprint in the community. The biggest complaint about most ranches is the smell and the flies and we plan on bringing the same technology we have to fight that into Pennsylvania," said Greg Herbruck.

Herbruck's Poultry Ranch uses a process which dehydrates the chicken manure so that it can be used to create fertilizer pellets. The process takes three days — which allows it to dry out too quickly to be used for fly's eggs — and nullifies most of the scent. Normally it's sent to farms to be used on food that goes to livestock, but the ranches have also provided fertilizer to areas that need to grow plants that aren't meant to be eaten, like golf courses, according to Herb Herbruck.

"We're working on the process of sanitizing it (so it can be used as fertilizer for food intended for people) that's the new goal," said Herb Herbruck.

Herb also said that while their approach of coming into town is unusual it's the same thing that they would do if they were expanding again in Michigan.

"We would do the same thing and sit at a lot of our neighbors kitchen tables. We want to make sure something is the right fit both ways," said Herb Herbruck.

There’s a market

Herbruck's has been looking at expanding into this region because they already have clients in the area and would look at expanding to the site as demand for their eggs continues to increase in the region. The site they are looking at is currently a dairy farm on Shimpstown Road.

On the Shimpstown Road site, they would look at expanding with just what they consider the essentials which is an aviary that can hold a single flock, as much as 150,000 birds, as well as a processing facility and a place to hold the manure. The aviary will be cage free and will allow chickens to roam across a multi-tiered structure. Chickens are then trained to seek out specific areas in the structure to lay their eggs which are collected via conveyor belt.

"We need more production and it's all about cage free. We have 50 percent cage free now and we've been at the front of (cage free production.) We haven't built a cage since 2005," said Greg Herbruck.

Part of the job responsibilities of workers in an open cage facility actually include some animal husbandry such as recognizing what a chicken sneezing sounds like or knowing if the flock is being too loud or too quiet. As a result the jobs that will be available have opportunities for advancement.

"You've got to pay a decent wage, offer incentives and have a pay advancement structure. Once you get a good person on board you need to keep them," said Greg Herbruck.

The facility is expected to bring 190 jobs into the area when fully oeprational, but it is not yet known how many jobs will be offered when the facility first opens.

Herbruck's first announced that they had been scouting the site in April so that they could gauge community reactions before solidifying a plan to move in.