Full of Life

Family farms start right with the name: family. For Carl and Cindy Fuller, their career was filled to the brim with friendships, life lessons and watching their family grow with each new flock they raised and nurtured together.Their legacy of hard work and dedication are part of what brought Sanderson Farms’ McComb division to life.

In the late 1980s, Sanderson Farms announced that a new facility would be built in Pike County, Mississippi. As soon as the Fullers heard the news, they knew it was time to begin the next chapter in their lives of owning and operating their very own poultry farm.

With several family members already operating their own poultry farms, it had long been the Fullers’ dream to own and operate their own family poultry farm. In 1989, they made that dream a reality by purchasing over 100 acres of land where they would one day build their family farm. Two years later, in 1991, they began construction on their first four broiler houses.

A year later, on a frigid evening in January 1992, the Fullers finally received their first flock of birds. The birds were delivered on a converted school bus they affectionately nicknamed “the biddy bus.” This first flock of birds would signify the beginning of a continuous learning process over the course of the next 29 years for the Fuller family.

At the time, Cindy Fuller was still working away from home, but after getting their footing during the first year of growing, she decided she wanted to stay home and spend more time with her children. As a result of her career change, the Fullers added two additional houses to the farm. With six houses total, raising poultry became truly a family affair for the Fuller household.

For months, the Fullers were the only broiler growers in Pike County. Because the new McComb complex did not open until 1993, their first flocks of birds were processed at the company’s nearby Hammond, Louisiana processing facility.

The early days on the farm brought advice from many mentors who became friends and some even became like family to the Fullers. One of the most notable mentors for the family was Bud West, who was the division manager of the McComb Production division at the time, who was nicknamed “Uncle Bud” by the Fuller children as they saw him so often.

“In the chicken business, there are three things you need to focus on,” said Carl Fuller. “You feed the chicken, you make sure he’s got water and you keep him comfortable. You do those three things, and everything else lines up.”

Of course, over the 29 years that the Fullers spent growing poultry, things were not always that easy. The years brought inclement weather, changes in technology and many, many lessons.

One of the most notable weather events for the Fullers, and many others in the industry, was Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In the aftermath of the storm, the Fullers were without power for a week and worked hard to maintain the health and comfort of their young birds during that time. Like many others, Carl Fuller waited in line for hours to buy diesel for their generators while learning to conserve fuel by letting the curtains down in the houses each evening.

Since then, new technology such as LED lighting, updated ventilation and advanced computer systems have changed the landscape of poultry farming. While technology has evolved and poultry farmers have embraced it, the Fullers still believe that technology cannot replace hard work and attention to detail such as monitoring the flock and making adjustments as needed according to personal experience
and wisdom.

Through hurricanes, ice storms, computer advancements and equipment improvements in tunnels, curtains and fans, the Fullers were able to learn, adapt and thrive in order to produce a high quality bird for Sanderson Farms and its consumers. In the Fullers’ opinion, realizing the importance of the family farmer, and educating and inspiring future generations about agriculture and farming is vital. “Agriculture is very important and we need to do a good job to educate people and to encourage people, because we need our family farms,” said Carl Fuller.

When the Fuller family first started growing chickens, their daughter was only 12 years old and their son was six years old. Now, their children are grown with careers and families of their own. The Fullers attribute early mornings and late nights of hard work on the farm as part of the reason their children are so successful today.

“I think it helped them,” said Cindy Fuller. “They learned responsibility. It’s been a good thing to raise your family.
It teaches you some discipline.”

According to Carl Fuller, the things he’ll miss most about Sanderson Farms and poultry farming are the good people and relationships he has made over the years. “There’s some great people that work in the complex here for McComb that I’ve become good friends with through the years,” said Carl Fuller. “They’ll be the ones you miss.”

In retirement, the Fullers look forward to traveling the country, having more free time and continuing their family tradition of Sunday dinners with their children and grandchildren. “We all have our little bucket list,” said Carl Fuller. “We’ll start trying to work through those things now that we have the time.”

According to Tracy Johnson, production manager at Sanderson Farms’ McComb, Mississippi production division, who worked with the Fullers for years, they more than earned their retirement. “The Fullers were always very professional and it was an absolute pleasure to work with them,” said Johnson. “They excelled at growing chickens and always had other growers asking them for their secrets. There were no secrets. It was sincere dedication and years of demonstrating a strong work ethic that made them so good at what they did.”