ATLANTIC — If Raymond Sperry hadn’t developed a distaste for cows back in 1935, his sons and grandson may have ended up in a very different line of work.
Today, however, their four-generation, 700-acre Sperry Farms Inc. on Sperry Road in East Fallowfield Township is producing enough eggs every day to feed Erie, Crawford, Mercer and Butler counties — and then some. Make that the entire Third Congressional District, which includes all of Erie County and part of Crawford, Warren, Mercer, Butler and Armstrong counties.
During the coming weeks, the operation is going to be getting even bigger.
To celebrate two years of building and rebuilding to the tune of approximately $3.5 million that gives the facility a capacity of 900,000 hens occupying cages in three acres of covered, barnlike housing, an upcoming open house will allow area residents to take a look at the new facility before the latest shipment of hens arrives on June 6. Once that happens, biosecurity takes over and the doors to the henhouse, so to speak, will be closed to the public.
Saturday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the public is welcome to come on down and check it out.
Leave Conneaut Lake on Route 285 South (Third Street). Go 2.8 miles. Turn right onto Lake Road. Go about half a mile. Turn right onto Sperry Road; the farm — at 11420 Sperry Road — is approximately 1.5 miles ahead on the right.
All in the family
In addition to visiting one of the largest egg-production facilities in this part of the country, those attending the open house will be experiencing the possibilities of family farming first-hand.
The Sperry family’s involvement in Crawford County agriculture, for example, dates back to 1918, when Cyril Lee and Ida Sperry returned to Crawford County from New Bethel, where many of their acquaintances were succumbing to the influenza epidemic sweeping through the nation.
Paying $4,000 at 6 percent interest, they purchased a farm about half a mile from the current Sperry Farms. Twins Raymond and Robert as well as their brother, Wesley, were all born in this house.
In 1935, Cyril Lee and Ida bought the current farm for $6,000. The rigors of milking 25 cows spread between the two farms by hand led to Raymond developing his distaste for cows. In 1942, the twins built their first chicken house — and the die was cast.
Eventually Robert left. Raymond stayed on and married Frances. They had sons John and Keith. And the operation continued to expand. And expand.
Over the years, John married Jody and they had a son, Jason. Keith married Joanne. Jason married Betsy. And today, they’re all active in the family business.
Sperry Farms has approximately 55 employees — and will probably add two or three once the new facilities open in June, John Sperry said.
Employment, however, isn’t the only way the family business adds to the local economy. “We buy all our corn locally,” he said. “It’s up around a million bushels a year — $4 million to $6 million worth.”
Sperry Farms eggs can be found throughout northeastern Ohio, southwestern Pennsylvania, southeastern Pennsylvania, and locally at Valesky’s, Quality Market and sometimes Wal-Mart.
However, you’ll have to look for them in Hillandale cartons, where they can be identified by the plant number, PO183, stamped on the end of the carton.
The other number stamped on the carton, by the way, is Julian date — the number of days elapsed since the beginning of the current calendar year — that represents the day they were laid.
But eggs aren’t the only product moving off the farm and into the marketplace. “All the chicken manure is distributed on local farms,” John Sperry explained with a grin. “It goes out on the land and comes back in the form of corn.”
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at email@example.com.