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Zwyer Family Farmland To Be Auctioned On Wednesday, September 26

Standing in front of the 1928 barn at the Zwyer family farm are (from left) Joanne Klumm, Robin Hagemeyer and Paulette Zwyer. The barn bears the name of Ray Zwyer, who started the egg farm in 1940. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER
In this 1960s photo, Thelma and Ray Zwyer look at the chickens with son Mike and daughter Robin. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ZWYER FAMILY

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — For nearly a century, Zwyer family members had lived and farmed along Monclova Road. 

For 44 of those years, the Zwyer Poultry Farm was a thriving business, with 16,000 chickens producing over 75,000 eggs a week at its peak.

On Wednesday, September 26, the 1902 farmhouse, outbuildings and 115 acres will be auctioned by Whalen Auction.

Walking around the 1928 barn bearing the name of their father, Ray Zwyer, Joanne Klumm and Robin Hagemeyer said the decision to sell leaves them with mixed emotions.

“We grew up here,” Joanne said, “but no family member was able to carry on the farming.”

Joanne, Robin and their sister-in-law Paulette Zwyer – who, along with her late husband Tom, operated the egg farm until 2004 – are hopeful that an area farmer will purchase the agriculturally zoned land. 

Jason Whalen, who is handling the auction, noted that the fields contain highly productive soil. 

The earliest record of the family on Monclova Road is the 1897 last will and testament of a Michael Zweyer, who left to his son Adam the farm on Monclova Road, said Matt Hagemeyer, who has done research on the family. The name at some point was changed to Zwyer, he noted. 

A 1924 county atlas shows Adam and Mary Zwyer owning 77 acres in the same location at 9002 Monclova Road. In 1940, Adam and Mary’s grandson Ray and his new wife, Thelma, moved onto the farm and later had five children: Tom, Joanne, Janice, Mike and Robin. 

At their peak, Ray and his brother Howard together farmed over 800 acres in the Monclova Township and Whitehouse areas, planting corn, soybeans, wheat and sugar beets, along with raising cattle and pigs. 

Joanne recalled many of her childhood winters, when the fields would flood and freeze from abundant snow.

“It made the perfect skating rink,” she said. “We would go out in the fields and build a bonfire and skate with our friends.”

In the summer, the kids would help hoe weeds, row by row, from the bean fields.

“Dad and Uncle Howard were sticklers about weeds,” said Robin, who got paid 5 cents a row. “Mom and dad were always hard workers. It was difficult for them to get away on vacation because of farming and the animals.”

In 1963, Ray and Thelma launched Zwyer Poultry Farm with 5,000 chickens. As Tom and his wife Paulette took over the operation, it grew to 16,000 eggs, which were sold to restaurants, nursing homes, Flower Hospital and small grocery stores, including the IGA in Maumee, Pope’s in Waterville and Browning’s in Whitehouse.

Zwyer’s was given the 300 Club Award because its chickens laid, on average, 300 eggs a year.

“Chickens don’t lay an egg every day,” Paulette explained. “We sold 300 cases a week, with each case having 30 dozen in a case.”

With two full-time and three part-time employees, the eggs would be gathered, washed, dried and candled to look for cracks, blood spots and double yolks, Paulette explained. The eggs were graded as Jumbo, XL, Large, Medium, Small and Peewee.

“People said the Peewees, which were sold five dozen for $1.25, were the best-tasting eggs,” Paulette said. Others would call ahead for double yolk eggs, which occurred most often when the chickens were young.

Zwyer’s had three batches of chickens that would lay eggs for 14-16 months and then be sold to various companies to make dog food. 

As they sold eggs to businesses and individuals who stopped by, the Zwyers also sold vegetables, sausage, hamburgers and pumpkins in the fall and even homemade egg noodles made by Thelma. During the 1970s, when a beef scarcity pushed prices up, Tom would bring in fryer chickens to sell.

“Word would get out and people would come and line up outside the barn,” Paulette said. “I had to give out numbers.”

Many teenagers counted Zwyer’s as their first job, Paulette said, with some only working a few days at gathering eggs on weekends or pulling out chickens to be sold.

“One young man didn’t want to pick up the eggs without gloves,” she laughed, “especially if there was manure on it.”

When the plant first opened, the egg production facility was so innovative that tours were given for farmers and customers. In 1999, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur toured the poultry farm and spoke with Ray and Howard to learn about the challenges of modern farmers as she worked on agricultural appropriations for the year 2000.

As larger poultry farms began massive production, the Zwyer family began feeling the impact on their business. In 2004, Tom and Paulette decided to close shop.

“People still say, ‘I sure miss your eggs,” said Paulette. “We’ve had people stopping by to ask for an egg carton for a souvenir.” 

For information about the auction, visit www.whalenrealtyauction.com.

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