The idea of starting a business while in college tends to be too daunting of a task for most students to follow through with, especially when considering the amount of money and time one must invest.
Despite the challenges of running and owning a business, Taylor Hickman was not deterred. He began building his poultry farm near Hattiesburg in September 2006, during his senior year at Mississippi State University.
“In the summer of 2006, I had meetings with Sanderson Farms to secure my contract,” Hickman says. “During the fall, I started clearing an area of land I lease from my uncle for chicken houses. I built the pads and four chicken houses that semester. I placed my first birds in the houses in January 2007, my last semester at State.”
Hickman originally attended Jones County Junior College and Mississippi State University in pursuit of a pre-veterinary degree, so making the decision to pursue a career in the poultry industry proved to be stressful.
“I was at school three hours away, spending a million dollars at home,” Hickman says. “In the end, I’m glad I made the decisions I did. I care about what I do, and I get to do it with family.”
Growing up, Hickman’s family lived three miles from his grandfather’s dairy in South Mississippi.
“We didn’t live on the farm, but we spent many hours there,” Hickman says. “When my grandfather sold out of the dairy, my uncle, John Clearman, and several cousins went into the poultry business. I was in elementary school then, so I also got to grow up seeing how a poultry business operated.”
In addition to working with his uncle in the poultry business, Hickman also works with his younger brother, Clifton Hickman.
“Clifton owns four houses of his own,” Hickman says. “And together, we own four additional houses. We bought 40 more acres about three years ago to expand on. We cleared a path big enough to build our joint chicken houses, but the rest is still in timber.”
In conjunction with his poultry and timber operations, Hickman rotates planting acreage in soybeans and grazing calves throughout the year.
“I run an uncommon rotation between soybeans and calves,” Hickman says. “In late fall, I plant rye grass and graze calves on it until May. Then, in late May, I plant some later beans. I try to get the beans out of the ground before it’s time to plant rye grass again. There are some sacrifices you have to make with this type of practice, but all in all, it’s a net positive for the overall operation.”
As Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers 2019 Chairman, Hickman works tirelessly to not only educate the consumer about agriculture, but other young farmers on the benefits of Farm Bureau.
Hickman’s Farm Bureau story started when he accepted an invitation to the 2008 YF&R Leadership Conference.
“I got a random call one day with an offer to an all-expense paid trip to the conference,” Hickman says. “After that, I got involved with the YF&R program on my county level and it grew from there.”
Hickman credits much of his success to the support he has received over the years from his family, but knows Farm Bureau has played an extremely important role, as well.
“I tell people all the time, if they’re going to choose one organization to invest time into that organization needs to be Farm Bureau,” Hickman says. “They’re always there for their membership, and I think they always have our best interest at heart.”