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  • Melinda Murphy

FB woman saves 80,000 chickens

Hamburg egg farmer Josh Zimmerman faced disaster about a month ago when his bulk-egg processor ran out of storage for liquefied eggs for cruise ships, hospitals, hotels, and school cafeterias. The yellow goo from millions of eggs, stored in bladder bags, had filled all the available freezer space. So processors had to shut off the flow.

With a veritable Ol’ Man River of eggs, 60,000 a day rolling out of his hen houses, Zimmerman, 37, faced a hard choice: either euthanize his 80,000-hen flock or find a new market for eggs.

Into that void stepped go-getter Timi Bauscher, 38, who runs the Nesting Box Farm Market and Creamery in Kempton, about 20 minutes from Zimmerman’s cage-free spread, both in Berks County. She proposed to sell some of Zimmerman’s eggs at her roadside market, offering a minimum of five dozen on flats for a discounted $2 a dozen.

Zimmerman, desperate but skeptical, thought "she’d move a skid or two a week.”

Bauscher — whose farmer husband, Keith, says his wife has “Facebook down to a 'T'” —posted Zimmerman’s story on Facebookand Instagram, describing Zimmerman’s hens and their existential plight. “Let’s do this, Nesting Box peeps!” she wrote. “It went viral within 30 seconds and reached a half-million people,” Bauscher said.

Traffic backed up outside the roadside Nesting Box Market on the first day of the egg sale, on April 27, with consumers excited to save the chickens and help a local farmer in a pandemic-induced financial crisis.

Bauscher relocated the event to the 50-acre Kempton Community Center, staffing a bulk sale on May 3 with 30 volunteers, mostly women and a few teenage girls from a Scout troop. Keith Bauscher buzzed around on a forklift, unloading big boxes marked “Eggs” on skids from a refrigerated trailer. Volunteers unpacked the egg flats on long tables. Buyers drove by for a contactless transaction.

She ended up selling 18,000 dozen eggs for about $36,000, which goes toward hauling, refrigerating, packaging, and keeping the chickens alive. As for the business arrangement, Bauscher said, it’s a “partnership between the two farms and I’ll leave it at that.”

Pegene Pitcairn drove more than hour from Bryn Athyn on May 3, loading her Subaru Outback with 360 dozen eggs in boxes for about 40 families and food pantries. She had read about Zimmerman on Facebook. “It really is a wonderful story of how humans come together to help people in our food chain,” she said. She reached home without any cracked cargo — “no big deal because there was no traffic,” she said.

Cindie Penzes, of Palmer, in the Easton area, bought 30 dozen. She had also connected on Facebook. “Small farms need support,” she said, adding that she had called around to family that morning taking orders for eggs. “I called everybody.”

Even as political leaders begin reopening the economy, the nation’s food supply chain remains disrupted because of the huge shift in eating habits, with more people dining at home. Meat plants also have closed because of COVID-19 outbreaks among employees. Each commodity seems to be dealing with a major disruption.

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