July 20-26, 2000
Fewer but wiser egg farmers
By TOM KANE
KENOZA LAKE & GLEN WILD - Sullivan County and eggs were almost synonymous back in the 1940's and '50's.
"The county was the largest producer of eggs in New York State back then," said egg farmer Robert Kaplan of K-Brand Eggs in Glen Wild, also called Egg University. "And New York State was third in the country." "A lot of egg producers retired, and others went out of business because they weren't efficient anymore," said egg farmer Daniel Brey of Brey's Eggs in Kenoza Lake. Today, Brey and Kaplan are the only producers of eggs in Sullivan County "There once were 400 egg producers in this county," Kaplan said.
Even though the picture has changed drastically, poultry is still the leading agricultural business in the county. Poultry products accounted for sales of $9,225,000, or 39.5 percent of the total agriculture while dairy represented $8,335,000, or 36.7 percent.
Currently, indications are that poultry has grown even more decisively than dairy and other agricultural businesses in the county.
Brey's Eggs is located on Old Taylor and Swiss Hill roads near Kenoza Lake. It houses 250,000 layers and 85,000 baby chicks getting ready for production. A few years ago, a devastating fire nearly closed the operation down. Despite the setback, the farm recovered and is now thriving. Brey, the president and general manager of the operation, is the third generation of his family running the egg farm. "My grandfather, Harold Brey, started the business in 1932," Brey said. His father Bill, who retired last year but keeps his hand in the business, took over from Harold in the 1940's. "It's strictly a family business," Brey said. "My wife Nancy does all the books and lets me be free to do the operations." "It would be impossible to begin this business from scratch," he continued. "It's taken us years to build our customer base and it's invaluable." About 50 percent of Brey's customers are in New York City and Long Island. "The rest are in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut," he said. Locally, he sells to Peck's Markets, Eddie's in Jeffersonville and the Farmers' Market in Monticello. Brey's Eggs have 18 employees, most of them from the immediate area. The business produces about 105,000 eggs a week, and the Breys have their own feed mill.
One of the egg farmer's chief concerns is that residents around his farm do not oppose his spreading of manure. Even though there is a Right to Farm Law in the state that allows farmers to spread manure on their land, it doesn't help when it comes to spreading it on land he rents.
Kaplan, owner of K-Brand Eggs in Glen Wild, doesn't market his products himself as Brey does. "We're a wholesale house that sells our products to a cooperative," Kaplan said. Egg distributors from Vermont and Connecticut come to his farm to pick up eggs. He doesn't have to transport eggs anywhere. Like the Brey Farm, K-Brand is a family business, begun by Meyer Kaplan, Bob's father, in 1942. A few years ago, Kaplan was looking for a way to educate people about the egg business and came up with the idea of running educational tours, designed especially for youth, explaining where eggs come from and how they're produced and distributed. "That's when the idea of calling the business the 'Egg University' came about," he said. He ran the tours for 12 years.
Because of a scare connected to the "Avian Influenza" that killed millions of chickens in Pennsylvania, he discontinued the practice.