Farmer Focus opens packaging plant

Farmer Focus opens packaging plant

HARRISONBURG, VA. — Farmer Focus announced the completion of a new, 78,000-square-foot packaging facility in Harrisonburg, Va., within a mile of its existing processing plant.

The poultry company said the packaging element of its business would expand its capacity by up to 100% over the next two years with the capacity to process 650,000 birds per week.

Farmer Focus expects to extend its poultry farm partners from 73 to 100 by the end of 2022. It plans to double that number during 2023.

“This plant is an important step in our mission to promote and protect generational family farmers,” said Corwin Heatwole, chief executive officer and founding farmer of Farmer Focus. “We have over 100 farmers on our waiting list and a growing consumer demand for our organic, humane and sustainably raised chicken. With the expanded capacity of this plant comes the opportunity to partner with more farmers, the privilege to further partnerships with retailers, and the ability to reach more consumers. I’m so proud of what our team has accomplished with this facility and excited for what’s to come.”

Farmer Focus recently said that 100 new jobs were related to the new facility opening. By the end of phase one of this project they expect to create 135 new jobs.

The additional capacity includes cold storage space, shipping dock locations and helps the company deal with growing consumer demand. In total, the Farmer Focus employs more than 700 people.

“This new facility is a living example of Farmer Focus’ commitment to quality, innovation, safety and culture,” said Bob Bahr, vice president of operations of Farmer Focus. “From our technological and automation investments to our design decisions, we prioritized both production efficiency and plant employees’ safety and quality of life. That diligence shows every day on our production floor and speaks to a level of safety that, in my 40-plus year career, I’ve only seen accomplished here at Farmer Focus.”

Farmer Focus also touted its safety standards to go along with its organic and humane marks. The company said it achieved more than 4 million man-hours without a lost workday injury and a total recordable incident rate of .90, well below the industry standard of 3.5.

Other features of the packaging facility include a containment area for all stormwater, roofed-in recycling and trash area, emission-free rooftop hygienic units and wastewater pretreatment facility to treat all processed water. Farmer Focus also invested in a cardboard reduction and recycling program.

The company previously said it is the only 100% organic and humane certified chicken company with a mission to promote and protect generational family farms.