Joe Seibel knows how to count his chickens–all 13,000 of them
“Actually, we all should have been bartenders,” Joe smiled. “My grand-pap come out here from Pittsburgh to buy a tavern. We kinda got into farming by accident.” Sitting across the dining-room table from Joe Seibel is a unique experience. As good a story-teller as he is an egg farmer, the patriarch of Seibel’s Family Farm in Clinton, Pennsylvania, gets a twinkle in his eyes when he retells family history.
“In 1935, my grand-pap John and his wife Elizabeth had been living in East Liberty—that’s in Pittsburgh–and came out here because they wanted to buy ‘The Silver Moon’, a Clinton area bar,” Joe says. “The deal never did go through—I don’t think anyone remembers now what-all happened—so John, who had some farming knowledge, instead bought fifteen acres of farmland just down the road from here.”
Seibel’s Family Farm, with Joe’s grandsons now the fifth generation helping out, has withstood its share of hardships endemic to all farming endeavors, be it weather-related or market fluctuations. The family’s dedication to it, and the welcomed assistance of Deerfield Ag Services, aid in the managing and marketing of 10,000 eggs every day. Theirs is the story of a professional and personal relationship growing simultaneously.
As it turns out, John and Elizabeth never did live on those fifteen acres, but rather stayed in East Liberty, where they would sell door-to-door the eggs they’d collect from their trips to the county. Their son Gilbert—Joe’s dad—stayed on the land and grew the farm.
In 1958, Gilbert and his wife Mae bought the 100 acres that make up the farm’s current configuration. “For me, staying here on the land all started with a football game that I didn’t want to go to,” Joe states. “My friend had two tickets and and he was supposed to meet a girl there. He made me come along. Well, his girl never did show up, but I met one and three years later, Dolores became my wife. We decided to stay on the farm.”
Joe and Dolores eventually took over the reins of the farm completely from his dad–at one point buying the entire chicken pen system of Blosser Farm in Columbiana, Ohio—and greatly increased their egg production. “At first we sold eggs mostly to regional mom-and-pop stores,” Joe recalls, “though folks would always be coming over to get a dozen or more on the honor system, and just stick the money in a jar.” Six decades later, the family continues that same tradition of trusting their drive-up customers.
The flock topped off at 20,000 in the 1980’s, but as the local economy atrophied, the chicken population ebbed to the 13,000 they maintain today. Joe and Dolores eventually turned the farm over to their youngest son, Douglas Seibel, and his wife, Lynn, in 1998. Their marketing strategy has kept pace with their burgeoning egg supply. Local SHOP n’ SAVE grocery stores are a major client. Every week the two Pittsburgh-area DeLuca’s Restaurants purchase 25 cases—a whopping 9,000 eggs—for their hungry customers. Though egg laying decreases some in the colder months, their chickens produce an average of 10,000 eggs per day.
Though egg production remains their main focus, the Seibels wisely have other irons in the fire. They currently maintain 30 head of cattle, 60 sheep and 10 hogs, which they will eventually sell at auction. A sizable gas and oil well system is under construction on a corner of the property. They grow corn, wheat, oats and hay. “Half of it is feed for our chickens, the rest we sell to Deerfield,” Joe says.
The Seibels have a long history with Deerfield. Joe proudly stakes his claim as Deerfield founder Boyd Walbrown’s first customer, and no one around their dining-room table, including Wallbrown family members, disputes him. Joe first saw the Deerfield name in a feed ad in the regional Farm and Dairy. Needing corn for the chickens, Joe drove to Deerfield to see things for himself. “It was terrible muddy, so Boyd towed my truck in with his tractor to get the corn,” Joe recalls.”We filled up my truck, and then he towed me right back out.” In those very early days, Deerfield didn’t have a scale yet. “I had to drive over to North Benton, to a different place, to weigh the truck,” Joe relates, “and then drive back to Deerfield to tell Boyd how much the corn weighed.”
Deerfield is equally pleased with their ‘first customer’. “It’s the long-lasting relationships like these that are the most fulfilling,” says Deerfied Ag Services co-owner Beth Padisak, Boyd’s daughter. “I remember Joe being over at our house. He and my dad were friends–my mom and dad really enjoyed Joe and Dolores’ company. Joe would ask my dad for advice and my dad would learn from him as well.” Sue Kline, Deerfield Customer Service Representative and also Boyd’s sister, concurs: “To know and work with Joe and Dolores was a privilege. Joe and his wife worked together as a team and now, with his family, they remain a team. My brother Boyd and Joe had a special relationship and shared a great respect for one another. Life brings special people into our lives, and Joe is one of them.”
Deerfield continues to assist them in numerous ways. “Our grain staff and agronomists work hard to make sound recommendations and deliver services and products in a timely manner,” Beth states. “We customize our services based upon their unique needs. Our goal is to help the Seibels remain successful.”
Deerfield is instrumental in forming an annual game plan for their crops. “Once the agronomists works with Seibels to make their yearly agronomic plan, I then take that input cost and help them contract enough grain to cover their cost of production,” says Deerfield Grain Originator Sarah Hanson. “At the same time I work with them to put targets in for the next year. In a nutshell I help them sell their grain while managing risks by using contracts and targets.”
Deerfield Agronomist Zach Henry also contributes his expertise. “The Seibel family are great people,” Zach says. “When Sarah Hanson and I sat down with them earlier in the year to formulate a seed planting schedule, I put together a chemical and fertilizer plan for their various crops. I have also assisted Lynn—Joe’s daughter-in-law—in recognizing various crop pests. This year, based on our determination of pest levels, we decide to not apply any pesticides. But we’ll keep an eye on it with next year in mind.”
“I have enjoyed working with them,” Sarah states. “Whenever I visit the Seibel Farm, I learn something new about chickens and have a good laugh with Joe. I appreciate them and their trust in us as a partner in their business.”
That sense of trust and partnership is shared by the Seibel family. “Mr. Wallbrown was just a great help to me when I started out,” Joe remembers. “All I wanted from him was a small grain bin, but he said ‘No, you’ll need bigger’, and he put up a 30-footer. Well, it sure worked out, and I thanked him many times. He was a good farmer, and a good friend.”