Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. Can you tell us a bit about your background and where you grew up – did you grow up on a farm?
I grew up in Vietnam in the rice fields, just another type of farm, though I enjoyed working with animals back then too. I spent most of my business life working seven days a week in a busy hair salon in Los Angeles. After 20 years of non-stop service work, I was ready to retire. But that business and location were expensive for raising a family, so not quite as ready financially.
But commercial poultry farming is a big job and a lot of work…
Oh, I don’t mind hard work. A friend of mine thought I was crazy to take on chicken farming, but I love it! The broilers are relatively easy to grow and I love living in the country.
What do you enjoy best about your work?
I like the back and forth nature of working with the chickens. We’ll be really busy, but then I look around and I am just more relaxed because I love what I do. We also get some down time in between flocks. I work hard to make a good living for my family. And the cost of property is lower in Arkansas than California, so I can provide better for my family.
What are some of the challenges?
Chicken is very popular in the U.S. and around the world, but with things like COVID, it affected the cost of everything. It can take some time to have the market work itself out, and for farmers to have the money make it to them when the price of chicken rises.
Many farms are “family businesses” – is that true for yours, too? Do you have another generation of poultry farmers learning the ropes now?
Most of our children are grown and live in California, but we still have one in school. But members of my wife’s family work with us, as well as a group of workers who are wonderful. I’m putting in the work to create something for the time when I really do retire, but also to provide something for my family. We’ve built a center for our family and a happy, happy life here.
If someone was thinking about becoming a poultry farmer like you, what kind of advice would you give them?
If you can, build new chicken houses. There can be a lot of issues with the older houses and have trouble passing inspection. But you want to spend the time to find the right land, get it inspected and approved by the integrator and then get the appropriate permits. We had to back out of one property because of the stormwater permits, but finally found a good one and was able to build what we wanted. We just added another chicken house and continue to grow.
I tell my family, things can happen, so don’t count on the money before it’s been earned. Of course, we’ve already negotiated the contract, but go step-by-step, do the right things and put in the work. The money comes out of doing the hard work the right way.
Ask a lot of questions. I learned from asking the integrators, our lending partner at First Financial Bank, plus asking questions of the neighbors and other people who knew about the business and the area.
Growing up where I did, I can appreciate how valuable the freedom here is. We have the freedom to put in the hard work and build a business for my family. It is something we are truly grateful for.