Spotlight on Crosco Farm in Mt. Sidney, Virginia
Meet the Crosby family of Crosco LLC. in Mt. Sidney, Virginia. With two 400-foot broiler houses, they produce 40,000 chickens in six flocks, for a total of around 240,000 chickens per year.
"In a pure numbers game, with the lowest food costs compared to the best chicken outcome, Crosco LLC comes out on top," says Steven Conley, service tech for the Broadway, Virginia Complex.
An Expanding Family Enterprise
For the Crosbys, chicken farming is a new investment, part of a larger family business operation. Three years ago they purchased the chicken houses, which were situated on a separate piece of property, and gutted and refurbished them.
"It's been a process, and a great addition to our farming industry and to our trucking company. I wish I would have started this 20 years ago," says Jeffrey Crosby, president of the Crosby enterprise. "Unless you're in poultry or the dairy business, which means you work 24/7, in this day and time you can't farm. Unless you raise poultry where you generate a steady income, it's almost impossible to make a living on a farm because the cash flow is too unpredictable."
During the total overhaul of the chicken houses, the Crosbys installed the best equipment available, including environmentally-friendly cooling cells and tunnel fans.
"We gutted the whole inside. The whole shebang was redone, just like you would if you built them new," says Crosby. "We actually converted old houses that were purchased from someone who grew for a competitor. They were old-style."
From Trucking to Clucking
Crosco LLC., the poultry farm, is one arm of a larger operation which includes Crosby Trucking Service, Inc., a 140-rig tractor trailer company. Crosby Trucking hauls product for US Foods out of the Pilgrim's plant.
The 800-acre farm has been in the Crosby family for 40 years. Crosby's parents, Raymond and Gladys, bought the land and raised their three children there: R. Hunter, Jeffrey and Sandra. The family has run 200 head of brood cows on the farm for decades. Raymond has since passed away, but Gladys still lives in the farm house, works on the farm and serves as office manager in the trucking company. The extended family still runs the farm.
Eight Crosbys, spanning three generations, are involved with the Crosby enterprise, including Gladys, Jeffery and his daughter Brakke, R. Hunter and his son Hunter and son-in-law John Dale Gardiner, plus Sandra and her son Jonathan Berry. The Crosbys also employ a full time farm manager, Larry Flynn, and a farm hand, Tina Spitzer, to run the daily operation.
Competition Breeds Success
Poultry farming has turned out to be a good investment for the Crosbys.
"It's been a process and a great addition to our business," says Crosby. He credits Steve and Ken Wampler of Blue Ridge Poultry, a nearby grower, as well as Pilgrim's Service Tech Steve Conley, for showing the family the ropes of poultry farming.
There is a friendly competition between Wampler and Crosby that pushes both farms' production numbers up.
"They make my job really easy because they are so competitive with each other. They are very good friends," says Conley. "It really helps all parties involved - the company and themselves. They have a sincere and friendly competition. They'll go out to dinner and it depends on who wins in their performance who pays. They are always trying to do their best."
Love of the Farm
Crosby himself spends around five hours a day farming, in addition to his full time job as president of Crosby Trucking. He checks on the chickens, cleans out the houses and does other chores. The cattle operation consumes additional time, making for a long work day.
"I would rather farm than I would anything else," says Crosby. "Animals don't complain, you feed them and they appreciate it. There's a sense of accomplishment. They care for and you care for them. I would love to retire from trucking and just concentrate on being a farmer."