Mixer in the original mill.
History of Kreamer Feed
An introduction It is not very often that a business can survive for 60 years. Kreamer Feed has done just that. The Robinson family would like to share the story of how our business has grown to become what it is today. Over the years we have had setbacks, hardships, and major accomplishments. We have learned from our mistakes and have created a successful and profitable business that began with just two men and a pick-up truck. Our employees are the primary reason that the Robinson family business has survived for 60 years. Their high quality and loyal dedication has never gone unnoticed. Without the many people who have worked for the Robinsons, we would not be where we are today. It is also necessary that we recognize the willingness of our management and contract producers to be adaptable and make changes in order to produce the high-quality products that our customers deserve. We are especially proud of the employees who have grown with the company for many years. We currently employ 11 people with over 20 years of service and 14 workers with over 11 years of service. There is a bronze plaque hanging in our reception area, which honors those who have worked for the Robinson family company for over 30 years. It is these people who have made this business grow over the past 60 years. I, Bill Robinson, would like to share the story of my business with you; my valued customers, business associates, and friends.
Our First Decade
I graduated from the New York Institute of Agriculture in March 1943 and went directly into the Air Force, where I served for 33 months in the Fifth Air Force Communications. I traveled through New Guinea, Mindanao and Leyte in the Philippines, and Okinawa in Japan, and was discharged in December 1945. After my release, I worked on poultry farms, road construction, and at a paper mill in upstate New York. I came to Pennsylvania in March 1947 with my brother John. Here we rented a 24' x 24' building in downtown Kreamer for $12 a month. This building is now part of Wood-Mode Industries. When I first started, I was established as a Park and Pollard (Lay or Bust) feed dealer. I received 20 tons of bagged feed by railroad car. The Shiptons from Swengle, PA and Ben Walter of Beavertown, PA (now B & R Equipment) trucked their 20-ton feed shares from Middleburg to their stores. My only truck was a 1937 Ford half-ton pick-up truck, which I purchased for $240. I also occasionally rented a truck from a local storeowner, Carson Bingaman, to haul feed to the Kreamer warehouse.
To make money for food and rent I worked second shift at the Middleburg Throwing Mill. Richard Griffith and Gordon Shaffer watched the store for me after school when I was busy making sales calls. In the fall of 1948, I was fortunate to obtain a job as a poultry instructor for a veteran’s program. This job continued for four years and allowed me to earn the working capital that I needed to get my business underway. In 1949 I bought our first big truck; a 1949 Ford on which we built a 14' flatbed that could haul feed or poultry. John Hummel, Jr., Robert Sheaffer, and Maurice Sheaffer, Jr. purchased 144 chicken crates, and we started buying live poultry to deliver to Mandata Poultry. It was our job to pick up the poultry from local farms and deliver it to Mandata, PA. When we arrived at a farm, we unloaded the chicken crates, weighed five at a time on a platform scale that we carried on the truck, filled the crates with poultry, weighed them again, and reloaded them onto the truck. Loading 144 coops took the four of us most of the night because there were often 10 to 12 farms to visit per evening. We often picked up a mixture of young cockerels, old fowl, and rabbits, among other animals. As broiler production became more popular, we began to take loads to the live terminal in Newark, NJ. We later hauled full loads to Price Poultry in Altoona, PA. Marvin Long was my driver on some of those trips.
The most important event in my career occurred in 1950. One of my feed customers, Wilson Faust, thought it would be a good idea for me to meet his wife’s younger sister who was training to become a nurse in Philadelphia, PA. A date for us to meet was arranged around her next visit to Middleburg. Originally Doris wasn’t very impressed with me. I was a farmer from upstate New York and she thought I square-danced terribly. Luckily, when she graduated from nurses’ training, she decided that I was a slightly better choice than working at Danville State Hospital. We were married March 8, 1952. I know Kreamer Feed would not be what it is today if it had not been for her dedication, help, and understanding throughout the years. The second important event of 1950 occurred when I bought the plot of land where our warehouse is located today. I built a 30' x 50' store with a 10' x 30' office on the east end with the help of Fred Netherton and Raymond Smith. Fred was also delivering some of our feed at this time. In 1951, I bought a used hammer mill and a one-and-a-half-ton mixer, and built an addition to the west end of the warehouse to hold the new equipment. Kreamer Feed was now able to improve our scratch-grain mixing from the previous system of combining with a scoop shovel. At this time we also started grinding and mixing feed for farmers. As our feed business began to increase in 1952, I traded our truck for one that could haul seven ton of feed and hired a few more men. Dallas Snook managed our coal business in Middleburg and was later in charge of custom spraying until retiring in 1986. Charles Mikell, deceased, manufactured and delivered feed in the old mill. I also hired Charles Kessler, deceased, and Barry Swineford to help part-time after school. In 1953, we installed our first elevator and added the cluster of six wooden grain bins to the west end of the grind-mix area. This enabled us to store about 30 to 40 ton of grain and start mixing our own feed. The feed cars, containing our ingredients, were delivered to the railroad siding at Wood-Mode, and we often delivered large poultry feed orders directly from the rail car to the customer. A second used truck, a Chevy with a 14' van body, was purchased to haul bagged feed. Richard Moyer, deceased, and Harry Aurand both started working for Kreamer Feed in 1953 as truck drivers. Harry eventually retired as Mill Production Manager and Richard was in charge of poultry placement and poultry service until health problems forced him to take early retirement.
Alam Smith and a few other Beacon servicemen spent four to five nights a week with four men and myself capetting and debeaking poultry flocks. John Dreese started working for Beacon around this time. As a married man starting a family, I was now more determined than ever to find a way to support my wife and now my family. Our first-born son, Richard, came into the world on January 5, 1953. Our second child, Patricia, was born in February 1954 and Joann arrived in September 1956. Following the girls came Edward, who was born in April 1958, and William in December 1959. Our house was getting too small for such an active and growing family, so we built a five-bedroom house and proceeded to add more children to fill it. Julie arrived in December 1965 and James in June 1968. All family members earned their spending money by working at the feed mill and/or raising poultry. They were all hard-working, considerate, conscientious, industrious, devoted, loyal, and fun-loving young men and women, three of whom are still involved with Kreamer Feed today. William is our President, Edward is our Vice President, and Julie is our Secretary- Treasurer. Patricia moved to Cape Cod, MA and Joann to Poughkeepsie, NY. Our youngest son, James, has gone west and settled in New Mexico. Our oldest son Richard passed away in an automobile accident in 1972 on his way home from college in Williamsport. The earliest financial records I can find are dated January 1, 1952, and it appears that my business and personal net worth at the time was $11,129. By January 1, 1953, it was $17,093. Doris no doubt helped me make this gain. I’d like to share some miscellaneous trivia for the 1953-1955 time span; the interest rate for my truck was 4%, gasoline was 28 cents per gallon, and lunch at the Port Diner was $1.05 including coffee. In 1956 an exciting new facet of Kreamer Feed began to develop: we began poultry contracting. Romayne Kline, formerly Miss Gemberling, joined our organization in 1956 to handle all record keeping and retail customer relations. Romayne was connected with poultry marketing from the beginning. She handled the scheduling of all our live poultry loading. Miss Gemberling married William Kline, deceased, who became her replacement during one of her maternity leaves and continued working for Kreamer Feed from then on. Bill was in charge of our fertilizer, seed, and custom spraying. He retired in 1994 after 33 years of service, but continued to play a minor role in business operations after retirement. Romayne retired in 1999 after 43 years of service and Sandra Green now performs her scheduling duties.
Kreamer Feed History BookletA Lay or Bust broiler chart showed that a good operation with Straight Run-New Hampshire-Reds should expect a 3.89 weight at 12 weeks with a 3.33 feed conversion, meaning that it should have taken 3.33 pounds of feed to make one pound of chicken. To start raising poultry, I moved some old buildings on the business or home lot to build a brooder house with three range shelters. At the same time we encouraged other farmers to do the same. The first flock on record was started November 12, 1951. We purchased 600 chicks for 13 cents each and we sold 590 of them on January 22, 1952 for 30 cents per pound. We made a profit of $115.35 on 12-week-old chicks. Their average weight was 3.65 pounds and their feed conversion was 3.60. In 1952 we raised 3200 broilers, 100 capettes, and 100 capons for a total profit of $1,367.98. Kenneth and Vernetta Hoffman were our earliest contract producers from 1955 to 1956. Their farm was one of our biggest growers. Wilson Faust, Albert Stahl, Ernest Eaton, Jim Reamer, Neil Moyer, Pat Snyder, Paul Trissler, Sherman Corbin, and Richard Dewars also worked with Kreamer Feed as contract producers. Our 1956 flock sizes ranged from 300 to 3400 birds. During 1956 we started 23,950 chicks on seven contract farms and sold 23,166 birds with an average weight of 4.5 pounds at a cost of 20 cents per pound. Contract profit was $3,720.90 or 16 cents per bird, and my profit was $368. Flock losses were $44.67. In September 1957 our first two growers earned over $1,500 each; $1,592 on a flock of 4,400 birds and $1,632 profit on a flock of 3000 birds. Costs were down to 17 cents and market price was 25 to 29 cents. In the late 1950s the Kreamer Feed standard contract read that we furnished feed, chicks, brooding, medication, and services to market the birds, and the grower furnished housing equipment and labor. The grower received 90% of profit and I received 10% and stood all losses. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, we made many additions to the facilities in Kreamer. We installed our first grain dryer, corn sheller, and truck scale to better service our crop producers, and we also installed our own railroad siding for more efficient rail unloading. Charles Kessler began helping part-time after school when he lived in the house next door. He started delivering feed full-time in 1958 and became our first bulk driver. When Harry Aurand retired in 1985, Charlie succeeded Harry as Production Supervisor and stayed with our Company until he retired.
Our Second Decade
In 1959, our poultry customer base was getting larger. After touring several Beacon Bulk unloading systems in New York and New England, we decided to start handling bulk feed. Our first system involved placing 20 tons of bagged feed in the center of a boxcar and loading bulk pellets in each end. We used a wheel scoop to move the feed to the doorway and dump it into a closed grain elevator, which dumped the feed onto the truck. Our first bulk truck was a single axle nine-ton capacity dump box with a partition in the middle. It could either carry two kinds of bulk or bulk in the front and bags in the rear. When we started converting to bulk, we received three rail-carloads of Beacon feed per week from Cayuga, NY, plus we received bags by truck from York, PA. John and Lester Ulrich picked up this bagged feed in York after delivering paper wood. To encourage our customers to convert to bulk feed, we told them how to finance their bins over two years and use the bulk feed discount to pay off the cost. Since many of these customers possessed old barns, we hired carpenters to build new bulk bins. As sales increased we began looking for more efficient ways to unload hopper cars. We decided to add an under car conveyor to the Winey property in Middleburg, and we hired Beacon Milling to deliver our feed with their 12-ton truck directly from York. Many times we went to three or four farms with a load. In 1960 we bought our first new bulk truck. It was a Mack with four compartments for delivering a mixture of finisher pellets and cracked corn for caponette customers. These customers were our biggest feed tonnage at the time. By 1962 we had 11 full-time employees. During this year we installed a 50 horse power pellet mill so that we could start pelleting our own feed. We also built a new 40' x 60' combination retail store and office, which is still our office today.
In 1964 we added our first bulk load-out bins with facilities to either unload hopper cars or dump trailers of bulk feed. We also added Purina Chows to our line of roaster feeds. Purina served us out of Harrisburg versus Cayuga or York for Beacon. As our tonnage continued to increase, Purina purchased a mill in Lewisburg, and supplied us from this location until 1972 when we built our own feed mill. With all of the additions to our business, Romayne and myself were no longer able to handle all of the bookkeeping. To rectify this situation we hired Lois Drumheller, now Lois Gehers, to help us when she graduated from high school. After I built the feed mill I needed help purchasing ingredients, so in 1972 Lois became the purchasing agent. Today she purchases both organic and conventional ingredients for our mills. When we celebrated our 20th anniversary in 1967, we were busy with a growing business. We started to contract hogs with a foundation brood sow herd on our own farm, were promoting new cage layer houses (15,000 capacity), and had facilities for bulk Agrico fertilizer with Tyler spreaders to rent. Additionally, we had liquid fertilizer and a truck for Dallas Snook to apply it. Our bulk delivery fleet had grown to three feed trucks with 14, 12, and nine-ton capacities, and we had sales of $2,304,549 and 22,190 tons. We valued our employees’ loyalty and by this time had a total of 17 full-time employees, nine of which totaled over 94 years of service.
Our Third Decade
Gary Hubbert, previously a dairy farmer, began as a driver in 1968 and still works for us today. This may qualify him as having delivered more bulk feed than anyone in Pennsylvania. Richard Rowe, deceased, joined our staff in 1970, also as a truck driver, and drove for us for 25 years. Both employees have done an excellent job during their tenures at Kreamer Feed. During fiscal year 1971-1972, we realized that our many specialty poultry buyers would require even more specialty blended feeds to meet their exacting standards for size, pigment, and quality. In order to meet this demand on a consistent basis we made the decision to build our own feed mill. The original design was to produce, in bulk, about 40,000 tons of mashed and pelleted feeds primarily for poultry and hogs. The mill fulfilling this concept was completed in 1972 with one two-ton mixer and one 100 horse power pellet mill with a roller mill for grinding. Since then many additions and upgrades have been made. Soon after building the feed mill, we added a second mixer, a second pellet mill, and a liquid fat system. Additionally, we have continuously added load-out bins throughout the years. We now have 24 bins with a capacity of over 500 tons. This large capacity enables us to make separate feeds for customer needs. Tom Walter is a man of many talents. He started in 1972 as a production worker in the old mill and was the first employee to work full time in the new mill. He has been in charge of receiving all incoming ingredients, and most importantly he has worked in each of our three mills: old, new, and organic. John Dreese, deceased, worked with us for many years, first while working for Beacon Milling, then for Ralston Purina, and then for Kreamer Feed. When we built our mill in 1972, he joined our sales and service team until his retirement. Joanne Klinger is our Payroll Clerk and Computer Operator. She joined our staff in 1976 and has been our mainstay in computer operating for 31 years. Joanne has been with us to see our accounting system go from manual to bookkeeping machine to minicomputer to PC. The following have been a part of our farm operation for many years and have contributed greatly to our success. Dave Gehers, deceased, worked on all phases of our operation for over 27 years. Gene Twilleger, was a caretaker for our brood cowherd for 16 years as well as a farm tractor driver and electrician. Earl Swartzlander has been in charge of BJE Contracts farming operations for 22 years.
Our Fourth Decade
Edward Robinson graduated from Sun Vo-Tech with a degree in Automobile Mechanics. In 1978 he joined us as Manager of Kreamer Auto, which maintains Kreamer Feed’s fleet. Edward is now Vice President of Kreamer Feed as well as manager of Splash-N-Dash Car Truck Wash. He also oversees the maintenance of farm machinery and farm buildings relevant to our business. Many other people have extensive years of experience and have contributed greatly to our success. Kurvin Batdorf began his first job with us, in 1978, organizing our FDA files for medicated feeds. He continued this job plus many others including service work, egg production monitoring, quality control, and nutrition in our feed manufacturing until he retired in 1996. Additionally, Kurvin was the lead person in setting up our quality control lab and program. Ted Burr came to us from Penn State in 1979 after retiring as Farm Manager at the University Poultry Farm. Ted was in charge of chick orders and service people until he retired in 1993. Lavere Hook has done a great job as a hog and poultry service person. Ray wineford, deceased, assisted with mill maintenance before 1980, and Larry Yarger, deceased, operated our mobile mill and delivered feed. Gary Knepp started manufacturing feed in the old mill in 1980 and still works for us today. Linda Herrold excelled as a bookkeeper and my secretary, and was supportive as the back-up person on contract poultry settlements. James Sprenkle started with us as a fix-it man in 1981 and has been in charge of maintenance for 26 years. Clarence Mitchell, deceased, worked as a service man on hogs, turkeys, and layers for many years, and Sue Sperry first worked as part-time controller followed by full-time controller from 1984 to 1995.
William Robinson joined our organization in January 1982 after serving three years in the Marines and graduating from Penn State with a degree in Agricultural Business Management. William started at Kreamer Feed by managing our crop production and later became active in poultry contract production. He was appointed President of Kreamer Feed in 1986. In addition to his Kreamer Feed duties as President, he is also the sales manager for the poultry, conventional and organic feed sales divisions. Julie Robinson Eriksson graduated from York College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management. She was human resource manager of our poultry processing plant in Birdsboro, PA until it was sold. She stayed in the Reading, PA area to work for another feed mill before returning to Kreamer Feed in 1993 to run our Agway location in Middleburg. She is now the Secretary-Treasurer for Kreamer Feed, and works in organic feed sales marketing and administration and information technology support. Karen Gehers started working at Kreamer Feed in 1984. After working in the general accounting department, she was promoted to the position of Assistant Controller and in 1995 became our Controller. Jeanie Page, our feed dispatcher/ order taker, started in 1984 as a general clerk doing order entry work and was promoted to doing all dispatching for our feed delivery. Albert Stoneroad joined our farm crew in 1986 and continues to help with poultry catching and farm labor today. In 1984 we produced 72,000 ton of feed and serviced 70 contract producers. During the 1980s we added automatic grinding, a micro ingredient system, computerized production, a new maintenance shop, and we closed our retail store for more office space.
Our Fifth Decade
During the 1990s we installed a new 300 horse power automated pelleting system and a new boiler to maximize this capacity. We can now produce a quality pellet at a production rate of 27 tons per hour. David Petroski and Dale Smeltz have been servicemen for BJE since 1989 and 1991 respectively, and Keith Fleetwood, Director of Live Operations, came to us in October 1994. He has over 30 years experience with national feed and poultry operations and has been an enormous help in bringing us a broad perspective of the feed and poultry industry. Alvin Snook joined our milling staff in 1994. He works on the late night shift in the conventional mill, and thanks to Shirley Terrill our offices have been kept neat and orderly since 1995.
Our Sixth Decade
In 2000 Bill and Ed purchased College Hill Poultry. Our goal was to transition the company from a commodity poultry producer into a niche producer. We selected the name “Raised Right” chicken and trademarked it. In 2000 and 2001 commodity chicken prices were up, and we were profitable in spite of our meager sales success in niche products. After Birdsboro closed we took on their largest customer, a halal meat distributor. College Hill Poultry retained this profitable customer until 2006 when they exited the halal business for the more profitable antibiotic-free (ABF) business. In 2002 and 2003, commodity prices dropped to 20-year lows, causing us to lose a lot of money despite the steady growth of our ABF sales. It was evident that we needed to sell or close the plant. The former choice was pursued during 2003, but we kept the doors open by pouring in working capital from BJE Contracts and Kreamer Feed, hoping that we would have a business to sell and a long-term customer. Bill had grown fond of the business and its employees and didn’t want to close. CHP had been in business since 1929, and we didn’t want to close the doors; doing so would have eliminated the jobs of over 200 people, many of whom had worked at CHP for decades. We were given an offer by BC Natural to close our doors and transfer our growers to the new company. Instead, Ed and Bill chose to sell CHP. In 2004 Ed and Bill sold the Raised Right trademark and CHP to Bernie Hansen of Kansas.
Hansen kept Bill as CEO and hired Joe Depippo, who helped broker the deal, as president of CHP. Bernie encouraged the bank to write off half the debt, Kreamer Feed kept the growers’ debt, and Hansen got the business free and clear for paying off the balance to the bank. Bill actively managed the operation in 2004, reduced his role to consultant in 2005, and stopped working at CHP on December 31, 2005. In July 2005, Bernie sold the business to Hain Celestial and they changed the name to Hain Pure Protein Corporation. Today HPPC is one of Kreamer Feed’s largest customers in organic and ABF feed sales. The purchase of College Hill helped move Kreamer Feed further into the organic feed market, a new niche market that we had not fully served. We had been making feed with some organic ingredients for an egg processor since the late 1980s, but we were not certified as an organic feed processor because most of the ingredients that we used at that time were not certified.
As the organic business developed we chose to take control of ingredient purchasing, by paying higher attention to ingredient quality. We moved the production of organic feeds from our new mill to our old mill and became certified by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York because Pennsylvania did not have a certifier at that time. In the late 1990s we had to make a choice about whether to stay in the organic feed business or get out and focus on other ventures. At this time organic feed was still a very small portion of our business, and to continue production, we needed to invest heavily in the old mill. Fortunately we made the decision to continue catering to the organic feed niche market. We established the name Nature’s Best Organic Feed, trademarked it, and purchased the domain www.organicfeeds.com for our website.
When we hired Steve Smelter in late 1998 to sell conventional dairy feed he fell in love with our infant organic feed business. Since we hired him, he has chosen to focus predominantly on the organic feed sector of our business. In 1999 Julie closed the Agway store in Middleburg and returned to Kreamer Feed to be in charge of selling feed to dealers. Three of Julie’s employees from Agway came to work at Kreamer Feed when Agway closed, and we are pleased that they have continued to stay with us. Roger Smith is a bulk delivery driver. Sue Mainhart is in charge of poultry settlements. Andy Wagner is general manager of our conventional mill. Roger and Sue have worked for us for 14 years and Andy has been with us for 12. Two years after Julie moved to Kreamer Feed we hired a second feed salesperson, hoping to acquire dealer/distributorships throughout New England and eventually the entire United States. We began growing broilers for Eberly Poultry in 1999, and he is still one of our largest customers today. We started with 3,000 birds per week and struggled with most houses being too big for that number of birds. We have since increased our organic broiler business to 32,000 birds per week for three processors. We grow them in modern 500' housing units and are in the process of converting much of the housing to tunnel ventilation.
Early in the 21st century we added a second egg processor, followed by a third in 2005. Our egg business now has a total of three processors and, as of January 2007, 120,000 chickens in production. Eberly also buys the spent laying hens from us to use for organic soup broth. Additionally, we provide feed for 30,000 egg-laying chickens in Florida. In 2005 we began labeling organic bagged feed privately for a regional United States feed company followed by a second in 2006. Our plans for 2007 are to increase sales in the southern United States and expand westward. We will also be putting some effort into the emerging Canadian market. During the first nine months of fiscal year 2007, Kreamer Feed’s sales were $21 million with 80,000 tons of feed sold. We purchased approximately 1.1 million bushels of locally grown corn from over 60 farmers in our area. We now have a total of 11 buildings on our farms, which produce 900,000 birds a year. In addition, our 60 contract growers will produce 53 million pounds during the first nine months of 2007 and received over $3 million in contract payments. Our poultry and egg sales totaled over $24 million so far during this fiscal year. Thanks again to all of those who have contributed to the success of Kreamer Feed and the Robinson family. I apologize if I’ve missed anyone who has worked for me, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed sharing my business experiences from the past 60 years.
The Robinson family’s business goals are to produce quality products grown to the specific needs of our customers, while allowing them to maximize profits in a way that will keep them in business. We need to produce these outputs in modern, efficient housing to give our customers the quality and quantity they need. We are always ready to discuss expansion plans with existing producers and accept new producers as demand for our products continues to increase.
Click here to view a PDF of The Kreamer Feed history booklet.