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August 17, 2004 > Kimber Farms - A Legacy of Genetics

Kimber Farms - A Legacy of Genetics

by Jill Singleton

John Evans Kimber was born in 1895 in New York where his father was in charge of the missionary chapel, St. Augustine's, in the lower East Side. When his father died in 1915 the family moved to Palo Alto where they were all involved in music and brothers, John E., George P. and Arthur C. attended university. John E. Kimber completed his education with credentials in both agricultural science and music education.

By 1925, John E. Kimber had purchased 7 acres on the Mission Road south of Niles for pioneering a poultry genetics facility using 800 pedigree hens in trapnests and egg production statistics. His wife Alice, a mathematician, was the first statistician. Their sons Arthur and Jack were born in the mid 1920's. Between 1927 and 1932, John initiated a band music program at Washington Union High School and its 8 feeder grammar schools between, balancing these programs with his poultry research work. In 1930 the 108 piece band from Washington Union High School traveled to the State Band competition at Sacramento. The community collected $10,000 for instruments and other musical equipment to support this endeavor.

In 1932 William and Helen Ford of Niles invested in Kimber Farms doubling breeding capacity and offering timely business advice. Mr. Ford, owner of Pacific Coast Aggregates on Alameda Creek, was Niles' first millionaire,. In 1934 Kimber Farms hired its first professional geneticist and a veterinarian pathologist. Over 2 dozen scientists would work for Kimber over the next few decades. By 1935 Kimber Farms was protecting its poultry mortality and longevity charts with copyrights.

Some positions at Kimber Farms were classified as war work, particularly the more specialized tasks. Art Kimber flew B-25's in the war as a pilot; flying 39 combat missions. His aviation experience was useful after the war as air transport was essential to the next era of Kimber expansion. Post war air shipping of the genetically improved live chickens led to poultry genetics subsidiaries and partnerships around the world.

By the 1950's Kimber Farms statistical record keeping had advanced to computerized breeding records. In 1955, marketing with the "Kimberchiks" logo took off and offered distribution through 40 associated hatcheries throughout the USA. Success meant John could sponsor the Kimber Genetics Award with a gold medal designed by Malvina Hoffman and $2,500 prize; the firm also gave college scholarships for students in genetics and poultry husbandry; as well as a statewide music medal.

New office headquarters in 1956 was one of the first to utilize concrete tilt-up technology in the new City of Fremont. This building is now the Christian Community School, 39700 Mission Boulevard. In 1957 Kimber Farms expanded into breeding genetic strains of white leghorns for meat production. By this date it had 200 employees at six locations; 121 of these at Niles comprised a million dollar payroll. This was the year a televised documentary on Kimber Farms and "Kimberchiks,' a color movie were produced. In 1958 an all day Open House and Field Day was held, complete with Barbecue Luncheon at the ballpark on the Kimber property.

In 1958, Admiral Nimitz was photographed with the Kimber staff who had served overseas in World War Two and Korea in front of the new Kimber offices. During the same year, the Nimitz Highway was opened at Fremont; John E. Kimber made the opening speech at the cutting of the yellow ribbon. He had worked with Mrs. Nimitz on the San Francisco Symphony Board and proposed the idea of the highway name.

A 1965 summary celebrating the 40th anniversary of Kimber Farms noted that the successful control of avian encephalomyelitis and eggs from virus-free chickens allowed the development of the first successful measles vaccine at Kimber Farms. In 1974, Kimber Farms Inc. was acquired by Dekalb Poultry Research Inc. (DPRI) of Indiana for its disease resistance genetics and egg quality characteristics.

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