A project of: Keystone Development Center
Contact: Peggy Fogarty, Executive Director, peggy@kdc.coop

Early Bird Farmers Cooperative is a farmer-owned enterprise that was established in 2017 by and for farmers to market certified organic and specialty eggs from pasture-raised hens that live in humane conditions.

The members of Early Bird Farmers Cooperative started meeting to identify shared-solutions for common challenges faced by organic and sustainable family farms raising hens for egg production. In recent years, organic foods have become more common-place, entering mainstream markets, and at long-last organic eggs are within closer reach for the general public. At the same time, the natural foods market has become more commercialized and competitive. Like many natural foods businesses, outside investors have taken majority ownership of some organic egg production companies seizing upon growth in the sector with a goal of maximizing profits for investors, resulting in organic farmers feeling the squeeze, while processors and investors enjoy increased profitability.

Members see investing in the co-op as building a legacy for their children and future generations.

The Co-op bears the promise of bringing organic agriculture back to its roots to live and farm with integrity and do business in a manner that is self-sustaining and respectful to consumers, farmers, animals, and the Earth. Farmers identified the co-op business model as a mechanism to cooperatively and ethically vertically integrate their production while diversifying and expanding their markets. This model will ensure that farmers get a sustainable rate of return for their eggs and that their rural communities will be supported, invested in, and nurtured. Members see investing in the co-op as building a legacy for their children and future generations.

Early Bird Farmers Co-op, labels and directly markets eggs to distributors, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants, and other outlets. Given an increasingly mechanized industry, the co-op, which has a majority Amish membership, contracts with locally or regionally owned egg processing and logistics providers who sort, pack, and deliver Early Bird eggs with state-of-the art equipment.

Early Bird farmers-members uphold an unparalleled standard of ethics and integrity, acting as good stewards of the land and animals. Member farms are certified organic which means they use organic non-GMO feed. The co-op will eventually ensure animal welfare standards met through American Humane certification of all farms.

The result is a WIN-WIN for rural communities. The co-op empowers farmers, who through unity gain greater control over the processing and marketing of their eggs, support other local businesses, and contribute to the greater good of agricultural families and communities.

Keystone Development Center had the privilege of working with Early Bird from the beginning. When they began work, 20 members had elected a Steering Committee with the goal of forming an agricultural cooperative. KDC supported the co-op through entity selection, adoption of Articles of Incorporation, and incorporation in partnership with CDI. As they grew, KDC followed and supported their development, from drafting Bylaws, generating a Membership Agreement, and preparing for an Organization Meeting. With KDC’s support, Early Bird began conducting market research to identify buyers provided initial lists of dozens of potential customers with hundreds of stores.

Keystone Development Center is currently assisting them with the process of selecting a general manager. They are currently operating a pilot selling eggs to manufacturers that will buy nest run eggs. In the fall, we will be conducting a feasibility study and financial modeling for full operations of the business and supporting them through capitalization planning.