If you ever work with Cooper Farms, a large integrated turkey operation in northwest Ohio that also is involved in egg and pork production, there’s a good chance you will run into a member of the Staugler family.
Tom Staugler is the manager at Cooper’s Fort Recovery feed mill, Chuck Staugler is in charge of meat sales and works out of St. Henry, Sandy (Staugler) Hastings is a human resources specialist at Fort Recovery, Jack Staugler is Cooper’s corporate director of human resources, Bill Staugler is the turkey production manager, and Dave “Chester” Staugler and Bob Staugler are in charge of support services, assisting with movement of turkeys, hens and hogs among Cooper’s contract producers.
It’s no coincidence. The Stauglers play a key role in the Cooper Farms story.
Nearly a century ago, Werner “Dick” Staugler began his career working at the St. Clair Mills, located in downtown Ft. Recovery, where 1,000 turkeys were raised. In 1940, Dick and Ralph Heil became the owners of the business, and the following year, Dick’s brother Ralph joined the team as the first hired employee. In 1952, Dick became the sole owner of St. Clair Mills, and his brother Les and Virgil Cooper were added to the team.
In 1960, a fire destroyed the mill, but it was rebuilt the following year and the business continued to grow. In 1965, a second feed mill was purchased in Union City, and in 1967 a turkey processing plant, Flavor Best Foods Inc., was acquired. In 1969, Dick Staugler sold the feed operations, but reacquired them in 1976 through a partnership with his brothers Ralph and Les, and Cooper Hatchery Inc. of Oakwood. The business was again named St. Clair Mills. A fourth Staugler brother, Harold, also worked for the company.
The partnership was very successful and allowed the operation to expand to more than 1.5 million turkeys, 3 million broilers, and layers and pullets. With thoughts of retirement, the Staugler brothers sold their half of the business in 1984 to Cooper Hatchery. Ralph and Les continued to work for Cooper Feeds through 1988, when they too retired. At that time, the operation’s name was changed from St. Clair Mills to its current name, Cooper Farms.
Many members of the Staugler family grew up in the business and have held every job in the Fort Recovery division, from the age of 12, including: catching turkeys, working at the feed mill, driving a feed delivery truck and being a service person for the grow-out farms.
The children of the four original Staugler brothers make up the list of Stauglers currently working at Cooper Farms.
“We were raised in the turkey business and continue to be heavily involved,” said Sandy Hastings, Dick Staugler’s daughter. “This family has a commitment to the community. We have been involved with the farmers here for 70 years as a market for their corn, and we also have a strong commitment to our producers because of the relationship we’ve had for so many years.”
Because of the Staugler family’s deep roots in the Ohio poultry industry, the Ohio Poultry Association (OPA) honored the family and the original four brothers — Dick, Lester, Ralph and Harold — with the organization’s Family Legacy Award earlier this year.
“The Stauglers are a great example of a family who had a relationship with the community and operated the business as an extension of their close-knit family,” said Jim Chakeres, OPA executive vice president. “Most who knew and worked with the Staugler family respected them for their ongoing commitment to fairness and dedication to advancing the poultry community.”
Gary Cooper, current owner of Cooper Farms, praised the Stauglers.
“The Staugler-Cooper families have been business partners as well as friends since the 1950s. We hold the Staugler family members in very high regard and appreciate their business ethics and community pride,” Cooper said.
While the business now operates under a different name, every work day at Cooper Farms is like a mini family reunion for the Stauglers.
“We see each other a lot. It makes working here a pleasure,” Hastings said. “We work well together, and it has made communication easier when we cross over from one division to another. It makes it easier when there is a Staugler involved who has understood the business from an early age.