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Poultry Farmer Spotlight, Winter 2021 Issue

Getting new neighbors & retirement! "Sometimes buyers are more than just buyers."

For many people, retirement after decades of hard work means spending more time with kids and grandkids, or perhaps taking up a hobby or traveling the world. For James Hudgins of the Carthage area in central Mississippi, some of the usual activities might apply, but he’s looking forward in his retirement to one very particular pastime. James and his wife of 50 years, Wanda, do have family to enjoy, but watching “Gunsmoke” figures prominently in James’s list of favorite things to do. The couple have recently sold their two breeder houses after 21 years in the chicken business. For 15 years they operated six broiler houses—for Tyson Foods—in Lena, Miss. James recalls the recession of 2008, 2009, 2010, when propane prices skyrocketed and did a number on the heating bills for the broilers. “It was a job trying to keep those biddies warm,” he says. But on the whole, there are few complaints from the Hudgins family. “We enjoyed it, and it’s always been good for us,” James said. “We treated Tyson well and they treated us well.” Wanda has been a hands-on partner in the Hudgins poultry business. “With him through it all,” she says. “If that’s what he wanted to do, I was there with him.” Especially back in Lena, they both ran the entire farm seven days a week.

After 15 years with the broilers, when James was 65, he took a first stab at retirement. He and Wanda sold their houses in Lena. There is an old Scottish poem referring to “the best-laid plans of mice and men.” No matter how much we might try, plans can go awry. And that’s what happened with James and Wanda Hudgins. Sitting on the proceeds of the sale of the broiler houses in Lena, they faced imposing capital gains taxes. They had to re-invest the money—using an Internal Revenue Service device called a 1031 Exchange—or else pay a chunk of it to Uncle Sam. Their improbable solution was to get back into the poultry business. Facing time constraints with the I.R.S., they decided to build two new breeder houses, this time from the ground up. At least two houses was a slight retirement from six. But now, at age 71, James is really ready to retire. “My age is again telling me it’s time,” he explains. This time around, though, there was a factor beyond his age affecting his decision. “The pandemic played a part,” he said, explaining that building costs shot up. In addition, the poultry market dropped due to the shutdown of restaurants nation wide. Ironically, however, now that America is emerging from the dark days of the last two years, farm prices are soaring. James went on. “We always took care of our business. If you’re taking care of your business, you don’t have anything to worry about.”

Bradley and Tashina Bounds are the new owners of the Hudgins farm. Brad grew up in Mississippi, while Tashina is originally from Washington State. They have lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming, of late, but it was the prospect of poultry farming that drew them back to the South. Brad’s parents raise broilers in Arkansas, and he and Tashina spent several years there, helping work the farm. And after several years in Wyoming, when they got the idea to go into business for themselves, Brad and Tashina looked to Mississippi, Brad’s home. “Climate-wise, it’s more appealing than elsewhere,” he said. They were familiar with broiler farming, including the long days. “Broilers eat all day,” he explains. “And you have to make sure there’s food.” Even with two boys, ages 6 and 8, who love pitching in with the farm duties, broilers are a different kind of work than breeders. “Breeder farms have updated a lot in recent years,” Brad says. “With breeders you feed once a day.” Eggs need to be picked up two or three times per day, but factoring in the much lower number of dead birds to pick up, “I prefer breeders to broilers, hands down.” What’s most important, Tashina says: “We have the family all together.” The Bounds farm will double in size before long, after the imminent construction of two more houses. Presumably, the boys’ zeal for pitching in will continue. For Wanda and James Hudgins, exiting the poultry business—again—won’t mean a life of total leisure. They already run 50 head of cattle, and they’ll use proceeds from the poultry farm sale—again with a 1031 Exchange—to buy another cattle farm. But cattle allow much more flexibility with the schedule than chickens, a concept James appreciates. “I’ll be able to stay inside when it’s cold, drink a cup of coffee, and watch ‘Gunsmoke.’”

Article above from American Poultry Farmer magazine, c/o AmericanPoultryCompany,Inc
American Poultry Farmer Magazine

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