Poultry Plant Has Five Decade History
By Jack Gurner
The history of the poultry processing plant in Water Valley goes back almost 50 years. Here is a summary of the early days of the business:
Construction of the Water Valley poultry processing plant began Tuesday, June 24, 1958, when Doc Bell, Beat Three Supervisor, and Samuel J. Winoker, president of the Water Valley Poultry Corporation broke ground for the $260,000 facility.
The plant was built with funds paid to Beat Three of Yalobusha County for roads and bridges taken over by the Federal Government during the construction of Enid Lake, according to stories, which appeared in the North Mississippi Herald.
Lieutenant Governor Carroll Gartin was principal speaker at the groundbreaking that featured a brass ensemble of local musicians playing the National Anthem. The Water Valley Coca-Cola Bottling Company provided free Cokes.
In July of 1959 the Board of Supervisors terminated their contract with Pride of Virginia Poultry Corporation (operating here as Water Valley Poultry Corporation). As the plant neared completion, the company was unable to begin operation due to financial setbacks.
Dixie Poultry of Water Valley, Inc. was the first firm to actually operate the plant. They entered into a contract with the Board of Supervisors in the fall of 1960 and the first broilers came off the line on May 31, 1961.
Twenty-five hundred broilers were processed the first day and 5000 the second which was about 25 percent of capacity. “I believe we will be able to operate at full capacity in a few weeks,’ said T. A. Crenshaw, operator of Dixie Poultry. The company started with 45 employees.
Dixie was forced to suspend operations on December 6, 1961, when they were unable to obtain enough chickens. By then they employed 75 people and had a weekly payroll of $5000.
In an effort to restart operations, Crenshaw, who was majority stockholder of Dixie Poultry, announced that the firm would sell stock in the company. The initial offer was 15,000 shares at $10 per share. A board of trustees comprised of local business and professional men would oversee the money.
To help local people understand the business, Crenshaw made available the poultry industry film, “Adventures in Food – The Chicken”, to civic organizations and the schools. The movie showed the development of the chicken from the egg through various stages of growth.
Neither the stock offering nor the film helped keep the business in operation. The plant never reopened.
In April of 1963 the Board of Supervisors entered into an agreement with the Mississippi Federated Cooperative for use of the poultry processing plant. The contract provided for an initial six-month term during which the Coop made a survey of the poultry potential of the area.
The MFC was a state owned corporation and all profits from operation of the plant were to be returned to the people of Mississippi, according to the Board of Supervisors. The North Mississippi Herald worked with county and state officials by providing space for a labor survey which sought “male and female” workers.
During the fall of 1963 the Board of Supervisors made an agreement with Mott’s Inc. of Nashville and Pete Brown of Savannah, Tennessee, to operate the plant. Jerry Loper of Philadelphia, Mississippi, was named plant manager.
The plant’s equipment, which had suffered from abuse and freezes, had to be restored, according to Loper. Reconditioning was completed by late December and operation began on January 2, 1964, with 52 workers. The company expected to add another 23 people within a few days.