The ABCs of Lowell History: F is for Foreman Poultry Farms

Foreman Farm. Photo courtesy of Lowell Area Historical Museum and used with permission from Self Serve Lumber.

The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff tell us about a time when W. Main Street looked much different and housed Foreman Poultry Farms. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.

Ernest C. Foreman (1894-1970) came to Michigan from his native Ontario Canada to manage the Poultry Farm at the Michigan State Agricultural College in East Lansing in 1915 at the age of 21. By 1918 he had become Professor of Poultry Husbandry and Extension Poultryman at the College. He then took a leave of absence to finish his degree, studying culling methods. He wrote his Senior Thesis on “Culling Hens by Head Type”. He also wrote “Modern Culling Methods” in 1920 and “Every Step in Culling and Breeding” in 1922. He soon became known as the culling wizard as noted in the magazine Modern Poultry Breeder.

Foreman chose Lowell as the site for his new hatchery business in 1926 because he had worked with Charles and William Doyle at King Milling Company developing feed formulas. While he started with a small hatchery on East Main Street, he was able to build his big Poultry Farm on the north side of M-21, at the West Gate of Lowell. Today this area encompasses what is now Self Serve Lumber, the Calvary Christian Educational Building and Church and land to the north to Gee Drive. The Ernie and Beatrice Foreman home was on top of the hill on the curve of Gee Drive overlooking this farm. Built in 1953, it was designed so the view could be seen from every room.

Ernest Foreman developed the Head Culling Method, a new type of poultry house, and new feed formulas for laying hens. In 1930 it was stated that Foreman Poultry Farms were breeding a distinctly superior type of layer with more size, larger eggs and higher production than practically all other strains.

Foreman’s leghorns and barred rocks won awards and contests in nearly every state, including many first place rankings for his contest birds. He literally won hundreds of trophies, awards and cash prizes. In 1945 Leghorns from Foreman Poultry Farms took the world’s record in egg production.

Ernest Foreman

Foreman’s expertise in the poultry field not only made him well known and respected in the United States, but also throughout Europe. Poultry experts came from around the world to Lowell to learn from him. In 1958 Dr. Alfred Mehner, Director of Federal Research Institute for Small Animal breeding in Celle Germany included Foreman Poultry Farms in his research tour of the United States.

While obviously a busy man in his professional career, Ernest Foreman made time for community affairs. He was president of the Lowell Board of Trade in 1932, when the first showboat came into being, and then followed that by serving as an officer of the Showboat Corporation for 25 years. He served on the City Council, was a founder and first president of the Lowell Rotary Club; a member of the Lowell Masonic Lodge; the Rod and Gun Club and the Loyal Order of Moose. He also donated generously to Lowell churches and to 4-H Clubs.

Foreman passed away in 1970. In 1971, the Lowell Rotary Club dedicated the Ernest C. Foreman Memorial to him and placed it in front of the Foreman Building on the Lowell Fairgrounds. “The building here …is another dream that Ernie had of a summer exhibition building for the 4-H and a winter indoor skating rink. He spark plugged the entire project and gave much of his own money and effort to see that it was completed. …He was dedicated to the interests of the youth and the community. He always gave more and received less credit than the rest of us. If ever anyone deserved the good citizen award it was Ernie Foreman.” ~from the remarks of Mayor Harold Jefferies.

One building of the Poultry Farm is still in use by Self Serve Lumber and the foundation of another building can still be seen.

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