2005-01-20 / Community
Moorpark was center of poultry farming
By Jeremy Zeller Special to the Acorn
Poultry farming was once a major economic factor in the city of Moorpark.
Dennis Johnson, once responsible for mass chicken farming here and abroad, came to Moorpark in 1948. He picked Moorpark to start his own poultry business because the land fit all of his needs. It had sandy soil, proximity to highway and utilities and was reasonably priced.
With his partner, Dick Peterson, Johnson raised turkeys. Their business, called the Mission Poultry Plant, produced about 250,000 birds a year. The plant was lost in a fire in July 1967.
Later, in 1958, Johnson and Peterson opened the Moorpark Milling and Hardware Company on High Street across from what was then Castro’s Grocery, now the Secret Garden restaurant.
In 1951, Abe and Dave Menashe also started a poultry farm and became close friends with Johnson.
The Menashe brothers built their farm on Los Angeles Avenue and eventually sold about 30,000 chickens a year.
The most successful egg entrepreneur was Julius Goldman, a German metallurgist who escaped persecution by the Nazis. Goldman came to America in 1949 and didn’t speak a word of English.
Early in 1953, he started Julius Milling Company and Egg Ranch, just north of the city of Moorpark on Highway 23, the route to Fillmore. By February 1961, Goldman’s operation had expanded to 200 acres. He dubbed his enterprise Egg City.
In 1967, an additional egg-breaking and processing plant was built. This brought Egg City to a total of 53,000 square feet of buildings, including structures designed for freezing, refrigeration, hatching and breeding, as well as areas for processing waste.
Old-timers will remember that when the wind blew in a certain direction, the unpleasant odor from Egg City was enough to quickly drive residents indoors.
After several labor disputes, strikes and health problems, Egg City met its end with total closure in the early ’90s.
In "The Moorpark Story," published in the ’60s, Norma Gunter decribes Egg City: "Mr. Goldman’s $2-million egg empire, the operation of which is totally self-sufficient, (was) the world’s largest egg farm.
"Mr. Goldman’s giant egg factory has resulted in the egg industry becoming one of the top five producers of farmer income in Ventura County," continued Gunter. "And Moorpark was the center of the egg production business."