Longenecker’s Hatchery: a family tradition of care, quality and hard work.

Jamesway is proud that they are the supplier for many of the world’s largest hatcheries, but we feel tremendously honored when a smaller operation decides to put their trust in our machines. We know that this owner/operator is staking his entire operation on his choice and a poor decision could cause him great personal loss. Case in point is one of our favorite customers, Longenecker’s Hatchery in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

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Daryl Hilsher with his son, Andrew and his brother, Steve.

This family owned and operated hatchery has been producing hatching eggs and hatching chicks since 1919 spanning 5 generations. In that time they have established a reputation for producing the highest quality chicks and the market agrees that there are no finer birds. Clayton Longenecker began the dynasty in 1919, running the local hatchery in a time when most small towns had one. It has avoided the corporate amalgamation of many small hatcheries and is now the largest and most successful privately owned hatchery in North America and has evolved to become an operation which can produce 1,400,000 broiler chicks a week. Some of Clayton’s great grandsons run the hatchery today: Daryl Hilsher as President and his brother Steve as head of technology and machinery. Mark Martin who is vice president and technical director is the son of John Martin, past president and integral part of Longenecker’s history.

The Jamesway/Longenecker relationship was formed in the mid 1960’s when Hilsher’s grandfather, John Longenecker, installed the first Multi-Stage machines. He astutely designed the hatchery to exactly fit the measurements of the Jamesway machines, almost to the last inch. This became a challenge 40 years later when it was time to upgrade to newer machines. The economical footprint designed by John did not easily allow the Longenecker team to change to the latest machines, so the hatchery reluctantly considered using the machines of a competitor. This had its own set of problems since the hatchery had had great results with the Jamesway equipment and was not really interested in starting with a new supplier. At that time Jamesway had introduced the Platinum 2 in only the 120,000 and 60,000 capacity models. The teams joined forces as Jamesway released the 80,000 egg capacity model just in time for it to perfectly fit into the footprint of the old multi-stage machines.

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Clayton Longenecker (center) with his sons Aaron (left) and John (right)
circa 1929

The Longenecker model is one to aspire to. Pouring everything into raising the best quality chick possible and they then sell it for a very competitive price to their markets. Often this includes creating breeding stock for specialized markets, placing them at the forefront of the poultry trends such as with the sudden demand for antibiotic free and organic poultry. The pressure to produce the best quality is immense since there is always the danger that their market might try to raise their own breeding stock, but as long as Longenecker can produce a quality chick at such a great price, there is little incentive for their market to change. Part of the reason they rely on Jamesway is because of the depth of technical knowledge available. Hilsher says, “not only are Jamesway’s sales reps hatchery men who can answer questions and dig in to help solve problems, when they don’t know something they call in to Jamesway’s technical support team for another level of
hatchery knowledge. That is really important to us since our stock is always changing.”

Jamesway Sales Rep Jason Anderson admits that “it means more to me, when an operation like this is prepared to invest in our equipment, since this guy has no safety net. He is investing his family’s future in our equipment. We take that trust seriously, and we need to give this guy everything he needs to be a success.”

Hilsher admits that they could have become more competitive with the ‘big boys’ but they would have lost the small hatchery charm and the control of their operation. “Having a ‘family’ of 75 employees and being part of the local community means more to us than massive expansions and increased operations. We would rather sell a really good chick for a good price, than try to compete on a huge scale and lose the ability to invest in our customers and in the lives of our employees.” Hilsher and his family make good on their words as currently their family of employees includes refugees from at least 5 countries who have been embraced by the Longenecker community.

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Daryl Hilsher with the Platinum 2.0

The Longenecker model is one to be proud of and Andrew Hilsher, great-great-grandson of Clayton, is prepared to take on the tradition and high standards that are his legacy. He is learning the ropes from his father and uncle: combining his Penn State University degree with 100 years of family tradition to help take the hatchery into its’ next 100 years. Jamesway aims to be along for the ride.

Jamesway’s sales reps are hatchery men who can answer questions
and dig in to help solve problems. When they don’t know something
they call in to Jamesway’s technical support team
for another level of hatchery knowledge.

Daryl Hilsher, Longenecker's Hatchery, Inc