4th Generation Egg Farmer
Brey’s Egg Farm, Bethel, NY
Founded in 1932 by Harold Brey, the egg farm is today run by Harold’s grandson Daniel Brey, his wife Nancy, and their youngest daughter Vanessa. Together they oversee the daily production of 228,000 eggs and the care and feeding of 350,000 chickens and 50 Hereford cattle.
At just 24 years old, Harold’s great-granddaughter Vanessa will be assuming responsibility for the legacy of this family farm – the last egg farm in Sullivan County.
“People ask me what I do. When I tell them I’m a farmer, they’re a little bit shocked,” she said, laughing. “A lot of people think women in agriculture get the easier jobs, but that’s not how it is here. I don’t mind the manual labor. It’s like I get paid to work out.”
Vanessa notes the farm has come a long way from its humble beginnings. “In 1932, my family started farming with 10 milking cows and 200 chickens. We built our first chicken coop for 1,500 hens in 1943 and a second in 1954 for an additional 3,600 hens. In 1995, we added a feed-mill, so the farm could produce our own special blend of grains to feed our chickens. My dad also reintroduced beef cows to the farm along with hay, compost, topsoil and poultry manure as side products. The farm is also now outfitted with state-of-the-art technology that gives every hen more space in a community-living environment,” she explained.
Brey’s Egg Farm today employs about 20 people, including entire families on staff. “We’re very much a family here. Our employees depend on us, and that’s a huge responsibility. I love that everyone cares so much,” Vanessa remarked.
Vanessa is particularly proud of the care taken with the farm’s hens. “I love that I know I’m taking care of my chickens. They have a good home here,” she said. Brey’s Egg Farm raises its hens from one-day old. Their feed mill is onsite, which blends the ingredients to make different kinds of feed for each stage of a chicken’s development.
“We’re proud to be farmer-owned,” Vanessa said. “We do our best, humanly possible to give people the best and most natural products.”
“People need to learn more about what is involved in producing eggs,” she added. “People don’t realize how much work goes into feeding this country.”
Vanessa admits farming might not be an obvious career choice for many young women today, but it came naturally to her. “As a kid I, I had an instinct for farming. I’d always be in the coops. I’d be packing eggs. I actually had to stand on a milk crate. I just wanted to work so bad,” she recalled.
“I couldn’t let this place go,” concluded Vanessa.