The Land ::


July 2, 2009

Ashby opens new USDA inspected poultry processing plant

<i>Originally published in the June 26, 2009, print edition.</i>

Ashby (population 469) sits snuggled in the northeast corner of Grant County with a few lakes and hills adding to its scenic beauty. It’s a quiet, picturesque community just off Interstate 94 about midway between Fergus Falls and Alexandria. Until the tourist season kicks into gear, there is not a whole lot of action in Ashby these days unless you swing onto Melby Avenue and park in front of an old brick-faced building sporting a sign above the front door reading TFC Poultry. Step inside and you’re witnessing a beehive of activity because TFC Poultry is about to go “big time.”

TFC Poultry is spending about $750,000 for a complete renovation of this building which dates back to 1939 and housed the original Farmers Produce, a co-op market for local egg and turkey producers also providing a retail store for fresh dairy products, eggs, poultry, even cheese and meat products. Over the years the building changed from cooperative ownership to private, but poultry processing declined from 160,000 birds per year down to only about 38,000 before two young brothers rented the business in 2007 and cranked it up to 80,000 birds processed in 2008. Even with enthusiastic new managers, the old plant just didn’t provide any production efficiencies.

Today, the entrepreneurs — Darrin, 20, and Trent, 23, Froemming — are about to launch a sparkling, stainless steel, custom poultry processing plant that they hope will soon be processing over 200,000 birds per year. Locally grown broilers will be the major source of feedstock for this new plant, which will be employing 22 to 24 people. The brothers also plan on processing geese, ducks, pheasants, even chucker.

“Catering to local and area markets will be their strength. But it’s the ambition and knowledge that they already possess that made me feel good, even excited about being their banker,” said Lon Rylander, president, First State Bank of Ashby.

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