Dwight Gerber and Gilbert Nussbaum help with the first chicken barbecue fundraiser put on by Kidron Volunteer Fire Department, which continues as a tradition decades later. Former Fire Chief John Sprunger is in the background.
Gerber’s Poultry celebrates 70 years. With more than 500 employees and more than 3 million chickens raised at a time, the Kidron company has come a long way since Dwight Gerber began selling processed chicken door-to-door.
From left, the team at Gerber’s Poultry that works alongside the growers: Donna Gerber (Mike Gerber’s wife), office manager; Mike Gerber, owner; Karen Schar (Mike Gerber’s daughter) Farm Auditor; Josh Hanzie, Hatchery Manager; Chris McConnell, Farm Grow-out Supervisor; Chelsea Smith, Marketing Coordinator; Lisa Shoup (Mike Gerber’s daughter) Executive VP.
KIDRON Which came first: the chicken, or the egg?
Even at Gerber’s Poultry, which marks 70 years in the chicken processing industry, the answer to that age-old question remains a mystery. But, what came first for the family-owned business is clear: quality, integrity and faith-based principles.
As Gerber’s Poultry celebrates this milestone anniversary, the core values that Dwight and Melva Gerber instilled in their work from the very beginning continue on, thanks to the couple’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Those values are the basic ingredients of a recipe for success for what is marketed today as Gerber’s Amish Farm Chicken.
The livelihoods of many farmers and communities in Wayne, Holmes and surrounding counties, as well as grocers and restaurants in Ohio and surrounding states, depend on the continued success and growth of the company.
Steeped in family tradition and staying true to its community roots and faith-based heritage, Gerber’s Poultry processing facility and headquarters are on the same property in Kidron where Dwight and Melva began processing their farm-raised chicken, by hand, nearly three quarters of a century ago.
Now, Gerber’s Poultry provides jobs to more than 500 workers with employees at the processing plant, office, farm techs, and Orrville chick hatchery; and supplies supplemental additional income to about 180 area farms that contract to raise approximately 3 million chickens a year. More than 550,000 chickens are processed each week.
The chickens are fed and cared for following humane standards and regulations. The company monitors grower performance daily. About 150 Ohio farms supply corn and soybeans that are manufactured into Gerber’s custom all natural, antibiotic-free vegetarian feed. In feed purchases, to feed the more than 3 million chickens in the field, Gerber buys the equivalent of 77 acres of corn and 38 acres of soybeans daily.
While quietly expanding and advancing technologically largely under the public’s radar in the tight-knit community of Kidron, many may not realize the economic and community importance of one of Wayne County’s larger employers. Gerber’s Poultry feeds an estimated 300,000 families annually through the chicken that customers purchase at grocery stores, or enjoy at restaurants. The company also keeps the environment, health and satisfaction of both chickens and employees in mind. On top of that, the business works with local schools and 4-H clubs and supports local events and fundraisers.
“We’re a faith-based company,” said Chelsea Smith, marketing coordinator for Gerber’s Poultry. “Our primary job is to feed people, but a lot of people don’t know what we do for the state of Ohio – what our success means to this state and the agriculture business. We’re sustaining everybody’s farmlands. When we’re successful, our community is too, and the people who work here.”