The Bridges Family
After serving in the army for 26 years, Joe Bridges and his wife, Vickie, went in search of an occupation that would keep Joe close to home, but also provide the same structure and responsibility that he was accustomed to after spending over two decades in the military. Vickie’s parents had retired from the grocery business after over thirty years of operation, therefore she was familiar with the quality and demand for Sanderson Farms chicken products in their local area.
“My wife’s parents have a plaque that they received from Sanderson Farms for selling the most chicken in this area,” said Bridges. “Chickens were always delivered on Fridays to their store and by Saturday, there would be none left.”
To this day, that Sanderson Farms plaque hangs in the Bridges’ poultry farm, as it was the inspiration behind them entering the poultry business and building their two-house breeder farm in New Hebron, Mississippi. Although the initial investment in building their farm seemed quite daunting at the time, the Bridges family assures the investment more than paid off over the 28 years that they grew chickens for Sanderson Farms.
“Back then, we thought that was a heap of money,” recalled Bridges. “We were shocked what it would cost to build two hen houses. Now, we would really be shocked at what it would cost to build two houses.”
The Bridges have two adult children, one daughter and one son, that grew up helping around the farm, which is something their parents are particularly thankful for now that they are raising children of their own. “Growing up on the farm, our children went to school and then they came home to help us around the farm, which taught them to have a good work ethic,” said Bridges. “You have to be willing to work on those days that you don’t want to work. It’s an everyday thing to see after the birds and ensure they are taken care of.”
When Bridges first started in the chicken business nearly three decades ago, farming technology looked very different than it does today. “At that time, houses had no cool cells, only fans in the middle of the houses,” said Bridges. “Over the years, we upgraded to conventional rotem systems and automatic feeder and drinker systems. Those systems, they work well, they deliver the feed and water that birds need to achieve optimum health. Farming technology has really come a long way, and it continues to upgrade nearly every year.”
For Bridges, farming was a passion as he understood the impact it had on feeding the world in a sustainable manner. “There are so many products out there that are coming directly from the farm, and the food chain is a big deal in order to not only feed the United States, but the world,” said Bridges. “You’re going to get some negatives and some positives with farming, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives.”
After nearly three decades of poultry farming, the Bridges have retired from the business in order to spend more time with their family and grandchildren. Thanks to their legacy, other fellow poultry farmers and future generations of farmers in their local community have been inspired to achieve what the Bridges were able to achieve with their farm.
“The Bridges are pillars in this community, and they are respected by everybody around here,” said Nick Smith, breeder-hatchery manager for Sanderson Farms’ Hazlehurst, Mississippi production division. “I respect them and asked for their advice on many topics. Sometimes, they would give me their advice without me asking, but I took that advice to heart and I’ll miss their counsel more than they know.”