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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James W. (Jim) Connor, December 19, 1999. Interview K-0818. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A hog growing contract with an "integrator"

Connor had a career as a pilot and a businessman, but he always wanted to raise cattle. He describes his entry into the farming business. He took a contract wherein he raises hogs for another farmer. He insists that this arrangement allows him to be his own boss, running a family farm.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James W. (Jim) Connor, December 19, 1999. Interview K-0818. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I went to the country. I always wanted to raise cattle. Man, I wanted cows. I had a herd of Black Angus cows. I think I had twenty cows and a bull. A friend of mine had the FCX in Burgaw, Eddie Bassum. He gave two of my boys two bred gilts for an Ag project. We made more money with those two hogs in two years than I'd made with twenty cows in six. Eddie used to tell me, he said, 'You'll get enough to get groceries out of beef.' He said, 'You can pay the mortgage with hogs.' So I told the boys, I said, 'Boys, we're in the wrong business here. Them cows, we need to get in the hog business.' So then weߞ.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What year was that? You might have said but I didn't catch it.
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
Probably late seventies because we hadn't been up there long. So then I got another friend that was in the hog business; I bought ten bred gilts from him. I built the old barn. You didn't go to them on the other side. I was working up to a fifty-sow fare to finish operation. I had that running pretty good. I had to go to school on an airplane. I was going to be gone about six weeks. I rented my hog operation out. When I came back, that's when Prestage's was just cranking up. When I came back, a friend of mine in the turkey business said, 'You need to talk to Bill Prestage. He's looking for growers.' So I did. Man, this takes all the gamble out of it. I build the buildings; I furnish the building, the labor, and utilities;and he furnishes the hogs, the feed, the medication; he sells them; and I get a percentage.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And all that's written into the contract.
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
Yep. But they gave you a five-yearߞhe gives you a five-year contract. At the end of that five years, if you didn't take anything out of it, the operation's paid for. Only thing I took out of it was enough to pay my utilities.
ROB AMBERG:
So you got a five-year contract on the hogs?
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
Yeah. And it's renewed. I've got the original contract. It justߞif you don't screw up, it just renews itself. Like I've been growing for him for fifteen years on that same contract. The only thing is that every so often, he increases. Now when I first started, I was getting about seven fifty to eight dollars a head. He's increased it enough that I'm getting about eleven fifty to eleven seventy-five a head now.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You don't have to pay for the feed. You don't have to pay for the medication. You don't have to pay for the transportation.
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
No.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
About how much would it cost to build a building like that?
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
Today?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Today.
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
Probably a $100,000 per building.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You could pay for that in five years today?
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
Yeah. The return on investment is still about the same, about thirty-two to thirty-four percent.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you like that better than being your own boss so to speak?
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
Well, I am my own boss.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
JAMES (JIM) CONNOR:
People talk about that you're a factory farm and like that. I'm not a factory farm. I just got a supplier. It's still a family farm. We run the thing. The only difference is that once a week they've got a serviceman that comes by to look at their animals. He makes sure I keep the feeders adjusted the way they want them, that we're not wasting. We get a premium on feed conversion. It starts at four oh. Anything under four oh you get bonus money on.