Southwest Virginia egg farmer feeds families in five states
December 19, 2013
ABINGDON—Nestled in the mountains of Southwest Virginia is a family farm unlike any other in the region. The Wagner family started their egg business there more than 50 years ago, and now the Green Valley Poultry Farm is among the largest egg-producing farms in Virginia.
“This is all I’ve done since I was probably 11 years old, and I hope my sons follow in my footsteps,” said Rodney Wagner, who farms in partnership with his sister, Lori.
Wagner said the farm started with 2,000 chickens in the 1960s and now can house almost a million birds.
Virginia egg farmers produced nearly 700 million eggs in 2012, only a fraction of the 90.7 billion eggs produced nationwide. But theirs is still an $89 million industry and the 10th-largest farm sector in the state. The Wagners produce almost 300 million eggs a year.
It’s a role they don’t take lightly.
“Computers are fine, but there has to be the human aspect of people in the houses caring for the birds,” Wagner said. “Sometimes you can gather so much data from the houses and then have no one to look at it. So we have a person for each house. They have to go through a training period. Any new hire has to be schooled in how-to, that we do not tolerate any abuse of the animals, and that they have to report if they see any abuse of animals.”
Green Valley raises its own replacement pullets for the hen houses and ships eggs to grocery stores in Virginia and four other states. Each hen house is climate-controlled, and the birds are vaccinated and receive regular food and water. Wagner has won awards for his farm operation, and the farm has a clean bill of health from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He derives a lot of satisfaction from leading his team of 36 employees.
The other two major egg farms in Virginia are located in the Shenandoah Valley and Southside Virginia. Wagner says the distance between them is good for bird health. It also makes it easier for him to pass the business on to his sons, who represent a fourth generation to be involved in the farm.
“We’ve made a living with it and provided jobs for the community. I hope they stick with it,” he said. “I think that’s their plan. It’s been good for me.”
A Virginia Farm Bureau video feature on the farm can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/18jNfYG.
Contact Mary Rappaport, Virginia Egg Council, at 540-345-3958 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.