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Agribusiness News Sussex County

Mountaire to buy Nagel family grain elevators

Katie Tabeling

Mountaire is set to purchase a trio of grain elevators like these from the Nagel Farm Service that will expand its reach into Maryland’s Eastern Shore. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

MILLSBORO — Mountaire Farms, the second largest chicken processor in Delaware, has announced it will buy three grain elevators from an Maryland Eastern Shore family.

Mountaire has signed a letter of intent with Nagel Farm Service to buy the grain elevators, or a silos structure designed to store grain, located in Cordova, Preston and Wye Mills, Md. – a roughly 19-mile stretch that mirrors the geography of Harrington to Seaford. The Nagle Family had started offering grain storage services to farmers on the Eastern Shore as early as 1946, but had since grown to trucking, hardware and crop insurance. The family will keep those sectors.

“Our intention is to operate these facilities with the same level of exceptional service that local farmers have come to expect from Nagel Farms,” Mountaire Farms Vice President of Agri-Business Rex Holstein said in a statement. “At Mountaire, we are a family-owned company just like the Nagels, and we share similar values. We appreciate how they’ve managed their business through the years, and we can’t wait to continue that legacy.”

The deal, which is still subject to due diligence, will expand Mountaire’s network of grain elevators to the middle of the Eastern Shore, which is a rural area and holds much of Maryland’s farmland. Mountaire currently owns nine grain elevators and three feed mills in Delaware and Maryland, including locations in Townsend, Dover, Frankford, Millsboro, and Harrington.

Nagel Farm Service employees will be transferred to Mountaire, officials said. Today, the poultry processing company has about 5,780 employees in Delaware alone and more in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.

Mountaire is one of Delaware’s legacy poultry processors, with roots tracing back to 1977 when the company started in Arkansas bought H&H Poultry in Selbyville. The company later bought Townsends Inc. Farms, which was the ninth-largest poultry company in America, in 2000. 

Grain storage is key to the poultry industry, as corn and soybeans are key crops to feed the birds. In 2022, chicken companies bought 89 million bushels of corn alone in the Delmarva Peninsula, according to a report from the Delaware Chicken Association.

Over the years, Mountaire bought grain facilities over the region with the most recent the former Cartanza Grain Facility on Little Creek Road in Dover. That structure has a capacity of 1 million bushel capacity.

For the Nagel family, the deal represents a major shift in the family business.  The third-generation farm service company got its first break in the 1950s with a contract with Eastern States Feed, and direct sales in bulk feed sales to farmers followed. It was the first on the Eastern Shore to offer such service.

In the 1980s, Nagel Farm Service grew to five locations with total grain storage exceeding 7 million bushels in three different counties.

In a statement, the Nagel family said they and their employees will work in partnership with Mountaire to serve the farm community “at the same level of care we have for nearly 80 years.”

“We are proud of the strong bond we have with our loyal customers and look forward to improving these relationships through unparalleled service. Mountaire as an organization is an excellent fit with Nagel Farm Service as we both operate from two critical principles: prioritizing faith and providing exceptional service to the farmer,” the family statement reads.

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