Spotlight on JBW Farm in Danielsville, Georgia
Jill Williamson of JBW Farm in Danielsville, Georgia, is a breeder grower who single-handedly produces 8,300 eggs a day, or 373,500 eggs a year, all of which are sent to the Pilgrim's hatchery for the Athens, Georgia, complex.
Cale Fitzpatrick, Pilgrim's service technician for the Athens complex, nominated Jill for Grower of the Month because of her hard work and her phenomenal production numbers, as well as the outstanding condition of her flocks and the impeccable state of her farm – which is partially a result of her willingness to use modern equipment and techniques. "The majority of growers around here still use pits, and Jill uses an incinerator for waste," says Fitzpatrick. "She's extremely clean around her place. There are no rodent problems. She keeps her farm well manicured. She has a very nice looking place."
"Jill is top-notch," says Fitzpatrick. "She does everything on her farm by herself, and that's saying something with all that she has to do. She's a one lady team."
In addition to her diligent and independent work, Williamson' excellent results stand out. "I think her ability to get the numbers sets her apart," says Fitzpatrick. "She's very consistent. Every flock looks better than her last. I think that's why she's a better than average grower." Fitzpatrick also notes that Williamson is a strong and reliable business partner. "She'll tell you exactly how she feels," Fitzpatrick says. "She works hard every day, she's good to be around, she's good to work with, and she's just a real genuine person."
A Peek Inside
Williamson's farm comprises 26 acres and one chicken house with 10,200 hens and 800 to 900 roosters. Pilgrims delivers the mature hens and roosters from a primary breeder farm, and when Williamson gets them they are about 25 weeks old. Over the next 45 weeks each hen produces about one egg per day, and the eggs are taken by Pilgrim's to a hatchery. Williamson walks daily through her chicken house checking for cleanliness, the temperature of the room, and the health of her chickens, making sure they have enough feed and water, ensuring they are producing enough eggs, and factoring what she might do to increase egg production.
Aside from her chicken house Williamson also grows hay fields, and she participates in a nutrient program that involves getting her soil tested annually and calibrating the amount of litter she puts on her pasturelands.
Williamson works long hours, seven days a week, to maintain her farm. She walks through the chicken house several times a day to collect eggs that don't make it onto the conveyor belt, maintains a meticulous environment for the chickens inside the house, closely monitors feed amounts and bird weights with technological feed and water systems, strictly enforces a biosecurity system to fend off disease and contamination from her flock, and cleans the eggs to prevent bacteria from seeping through the shells. After 45 weeks, each flock has completed its cycle and Pilgrim's collects the hens and roosters. Williamson then sanitizes and cleans her chicken house thoroughly, and as a matter of disease control the house must remain empty for several weeks. Williamson prepares for her next flock, and the cycle repeats.
Williamson's personal history includes plenty of exposure to agriculture, having grown up on a farm in Yorkshire, England. "I've always had farming in my blood," she says. Still, in her early years Williamson never thought she'd be chicken farming. "My father had pigs and things like that," she recalls. But considering Williamson's general affinity for animals, chickens weren't a stretch "If you like animals," she says, "you like most of them."
As a young adult, Williamson married an American Naval officer and the couple lived in England, Spain, Italy, Florida and Virginia – hardly the farming life. They finally settled in Georgia in 1997 to be near his mother, and when the couple later divorced, Williamson decided to stay put and start farming – but she didn't know what. She asked around about chickens and got mixed reviews, but she decided to take the plunge and built her chicken house in 2000.
"When I got into it I loved it because I'm at home all the time and my dogs get to come with me to work," Williamson says. Asked whether it was difficult to settle onto a farm after her globe-trotting years, she notes that the lifestyle suits her perfectly. "I've been all around the world and I didn't want to do any more running," she says. While she does try to get back to England once a year or so, Williamson is happy to mostly stay at home, working in the company of her four dogs and four cats.
Pilgrim's is also happy that Williamson made the decision to be a breeder grower. "Jill does a great job for us," Fitzpatrick says. "She's a very good grower. She's very detail-oriented and she has a great attitude about her work. She's all you can ask for in a grower."