Family hatchery celebrated for family legacy, local economic impact
With roots in north central Iowa dating back to 1944, Hoover’s Hatchery is a well-recognized and highly respected business success story for the family-owned hatchery in Rudd. The company’s innovative business model and positive impacts on the local community have earned the hatchery Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa (RRIA) Entrepreneur Award.
Mary Halstead has been a part of Hoover’s Hatchery for more than forty years. Hoover’s was founded by Bob and Helen Hoover in 1944, and Halstead was mentored by Bob Hoover, learning the business model from the ground up. Halstead started as a part-time employee and was responsible for cleaning and packaging eggs, and later worked her way into the ownership of the company.
Despite the ownership transition from the Hoover family to the Halstead family, the hatchery’s name did not change. “It’s a legend, and it’s well known in the industry. As far as I’m concerned, we’ll always be Hoover’s Hatchery,” says Halstead.
Today, Mary’s son, Tony Halstead, is the managing partner of Hoover’s Hatchery, and Mary still works at the hatchery daily. Tony and some local business partners have embraced e-commerce and grown the business through online sales, but stay true to the core customer base of local farmers and phone-in and catalog orders.
“When I came back to the business, we had a stagnant website,” says Tony. “We’ll never go away from the catalog and phone-in business, because that’s just who we are; we’re a family business and we take care of our customers. But certainly, there are customers in New York City and across the country who are getting into the backyard poultry movement, and they have the internet, so we wanted to be able to sell to them.”
Online sales have opened new markets for Hoover’s, and today the hatchery sells thousands of birds weekly and have 30 full-time employees and up to 60 part-time employees. Hoover’s has customers in all 48 continental states, but still take care of many local customers right at home in Floyd County.
Jay Matthews, Floyd County Farm Bureau president, says Hoover’s is highly respected in the agriculture community for its longevity and many contributions to the local community. Matthews noted by selling birds locally, Hoover’s have helped many small farmers get started raising poultry.
“I’ve been in Floyd County for 12 years and quickly learned about the success and positive impact of Hoover’s, and I’m a customer, too,” says Matthews. “Some of the guys I work with purchase chickens from the hatchery and raise them as meat chickens. It’s so easy to just drive over, pick them up, and you can take them home and you’re ready to go.”
RRIA is an Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) initiative supporting new and existing businesses through education, mentoring, and financial resources. The RRIA program is based on the five pillars of Education, Mentoring, Connecting, Recognition, and Financing. The next RRIA Business Success Seminar, “The Journey to Your Vision,” takes place May 11 at Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency in Storm Lake. For more information about RRIA and the RRIA Pathways, a searchable technology that connects entrepreneurs with resources, go to http://programs.iowafarmbureau.com/RRI/.