Canadian investors buy Vermont's largest egg farm

By Sam Hemingway, Free Press Staff Writer • Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Vermont Egg Farm Inc. in Highgate Center, recently sold to a group of Canadian investors, will remain at its current size for the time being, an executive for the new owners said Wednesday.

"We have no plans to expand or grow the farm at this point in time," Ted Hudson, vice president of Burnbrae Farms Ltd., said in an interview.

Burnbrae Farms, based in Lyn, Ontario, is one of three family-owned Canadian poultry businesses that formed a joint venture to buy Vermont Egg Farm Inc. in May. The other two entities are Ferme Hubert Inc. of Nicolet, Quebec, and Ferme A.B. Morin & Son, of St. Bernard, Quebec.

Hudson said the three Canadian entities had been in negotiations to buy the Highgate Center farm for about a year. Their joint venture marked the first time the three entities have owned a business together. Vermont Egg Farm Inc., is their only American holding.

Hudson declined to disclose the purchase price for the farm.

Vermont Egg Farm Inc., on Boucher Road, houses 100,000 chickens and is located on 170 acres in northern Franklin County. It is the largest egg farm in Vermont.

The farm, built in 1996 at a cost of $3 million by the Lucien Breton family, quickly became the target of complaints in its early years from neighbors who claimed the place smelled and was the source of a massive fly problem.

The Breton family had intended to expand the farm to accommodate 500,000 chickens within five years, but the plans were opposed by neighbors and ultimately rejected by state agricultural officials in 1998 after it was reviewed under the state's large-farm permit rules.

A second expansion request was rejected in 2002. In 2008, the Breton family again applied for state permits to expand operations, this time to 260,000 chickens. The Bretons did not follow up on the application, and it lapsed, Kelly Loftus, spokeswoman for the state agency, said Wednesday.

Hudson said the new owners have met with state agricultural officials to learn about the large-farm permit rules, which are used to assess the environmental and other impacts of mega-farm operations in Vermont.

"We are getting to know the rules for operating a large farm in Vermont," Hudson said. "The state permits are going to determine what, if anything, we are going to do and whatever we do, we will make sure it is done within the state's rules and regulations."

Hudson said the new owners have made no changes to the farm's operation since they took over control of the facility in late May.

"All the same people are still here," he said. "And the girls -- the chickens -- are still working in the barn."

Contact Sam Hemingway at 660-1850 or e-mail at