Agriculture 2023: CORWIN HEATWOLE
FOUNDING FARMER AND CEO, FARMER FOCUS, HARRISONBURG
In February, Heatwole announced a $17.8 million expansion to Farmer Focus’ organic poultry processing facility, backed by a $3.6 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. The expansion will nearly double the number of chickens processed weekly to 630,000 when it starts operating — probably in early 2024, Heatwole said this spring. Farmer Focus, already one of the 10 largest employers in Harrisonburg, plans to hire another 300 workers as it gears up.
Heatwole, a sixth-generation chicken farmer, started his 100% organic and humane-certified chicken company in 2014. Heatwole originally named it Shenandoah Valley Organic but rebranded it as Farmer Focus in 2020, highlighting the company’s business model, which allows farmers to own their own flocks, make key decisions and receive fair compensation. Currently, there’s a long waiting list to be a Farmer Focus grower.
Heatwole has a high profile in the ag industry. Within the past year, he was featured in John Deere’s The Furrow magazine as an “agent of change” and in industry newsletter Meat + Poultry, among others.