William H. "Bill" Prestage
Bill Prestage grew up in Michigan with two older brothers and two sisters. His father was a beer distributor in Battle Creek. Alter one year of college at Western Michigan he married his wife, Marsha, and started a family, which meant being a provider took precedence over continuing his education.
He didn't really like the beer business, so in 1960 he took a job with Central Soya selling Master Mix feeds. He moved his young family to Spartanburg, South Carolina for his first sales territory, excelled, and moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina to cover a larger territory in 1963.
One of his customers was Mr. Ottis Carroll, and the mutual respect between the two led to an offer to be 50 percent partners in 1967. Bill accepted the offer and moved his family to Clinton, North Carolina to be closer to die business later that same year.
The turkey operation grew and pioneered new and innovative production practices such as moving the birds inside to better control their environment and provide optimum growth opportunities. Contact production was tapped utilizing the skills of the local fanner to manage the birds while offering the local farmer a stable income and a constant bird marketing opportunity. Centralized acquisition of supplies, feed ingredients, genetic breeding, medications, veterinary services, transportation, and management support all worked together to complete a vertical integration package. Bill Prestage perfected this new way of growing turkeys and then carried these practices into the swine production business. Within a few years the company had become a significant player in both poultry and swine production.
In 1981, Bill’s long-time friend and business partner, Ottis Carroll passed away, and Bill sold his interest in Carroll’s Foods to Mr. Carroll’s family, 15 years after the partnership was formed.
Bill was now 48 years old and in August of 1983, he went right back into the turkey business with his wife, sons John and Scott, 22 employees, and 18 contract growers by acquiring the North Carolina grow-out operation of Swift. Soon he reentered swine production as well. Prestage Farms was on its way. T
In 1991, Bill moved his business across North Carolina state lines by starting another swine division in the State of Mississippi, and in 1993 he continued business expansion by building his own turkey hatchery. In 1994 his son Ron joined the family business, and they started another turkey operation in the State of South Carolina. Never afraid of a new challenge, Bill Prestage and his family purchased the Rocco turkey processing plant in St. Pauls, North Carolina in the year 2000. Today Prestage Farms produces over 900 million pounds of meat per year, employs over 1,200 associates, and contracts with over 700 farm families.
The Prestage philosophy of business has been very simple from its start be fair to your employees, your growers, your colleagues, and your neighbors; don't just meet the rules, exceed the rules; do business with good people; a business deal must be beneficial for all involved parties; and above all be competitive at everything you do. That philosophy has served the company very well.
Bill has served as President of both the North Carolina Turkey Federation and the National Turkey Federation. He has served on the Board of Directors for North Carolina Natural Gas and Smithfield Foods.
Bill’s personal interests include quall hunting, fishing, and spending time with his nine grandchildren who refer to him as “Poppy". He owns a quail preserve in North Carolina, a hunting cabin in the upper peninsula of Michigan, and two ranches in the of Texas, all with great quail populations.
Bill’s agriculture production foresight, his honesty, his respect for people, and his use of Americas free enterprise opportunities have made him a deserving recipient for induction into the North Carolina Poultry Federation Hall of Fame.
August 15, 2003