AgPack Strong: An Unexpected Path to Success
Born and raised on a poultry farm in Magnolia, N.C., Wesley Wilson always knew he wanted to be a farmer. But when he got to NC State, things changed.
His experience in the Prestage Department of Poultry Science – especially his relationships with faculty mentors – encouraged a shift in his perspective that resulted in a vastly different career trajectory than he ever expected.
At 29, Wesley is now president of Ag ProVision LLC, managing 44 employees, business complexes in North Carolina and Missouri, and commerce in 20+ states and four countries.
So, how did he get from Point A to Point B? Read on to find out.
What led you to the Prestage Department of Poultry Science?
I chose poultry science because I had a passion from a young age for the poultry industry. Both sides of my family were involved in pork and poultry production. From the time I could walk, my dad had me with him walking through my family’s chicken houses. I knew there would be many opportunities in this industry. And NC State has one of the best departments of poultry science in the country.
What were your first impressions of NC State?
I went to a very small school, Harrells Christian Academy, for K through 12, and the total population was about 300. So my chemistry class at NC State was pretty much the same size of the whole school. Coming to NC State was very eye-opening. I was much more comfortable in the poultry science department classes – the smaller classes. There were great opportunities for interaction with the professors, and almost everyone had an ag background.
What activities did you enjoy outside the classroom?
I was an invited walk-on for the football team, so I played for three years as a defensive back. Just after I started, Dr. [Sam] Pardue told me, “You’re going to have to choose between poultry science and football eventually.” He was right.
How did your career start?
As soon as I graduated, I went into live production at Nash Johnson & Sons Farms. I was a breeder service technician for two years. I interacted with farmers and gave them advice on their feed, water, ventilation, feeding schedules, etc. Growing up, I thought I was just going to go to NC State, get a degree and go back to farming. But Dr. Mike Williams, my adviser, I think the world of him, he would always encourage me to try something else.
In my position with Nash Johnson’s, I also oversaw a vaccination crew. The sales reps would come and meet with us, and I remember thinking at that time, ‘Their job seems more interesting than mine. I could do that.’ That’s how I moved out of live production and into sales, with Kemin Industries, a global animal health and technology company. I was a sales manager of nutritional ingredients, and my territory covered the southeastern United States.
What led you to your current position with Ag ProVision?
I loved Kemin, and I really enjoyed traveling, calling on customers and seeing different live production systems in our industry. I did that for three years. But I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be closer to home and be involved with the pioneering companies that I grew up watching grow: Smithfield Hog Production, Prestage Farms, Nash Johnson and Goldsboro Milling Company. They are the innovative owners of Ag ProVision. I came on board as business development manager. I collaborated with veterinarians, nutritionists and live production managers on operating efficiencies, innovation and end user satisfaction.
In my current position as president, I’m charged with corporate administrative and operational responsibilities including securing strategic supply contracts supporting the vertically integrated food production enterprises of our group. We manage procurement of thousands of inputs ranging from vitamins, amino acids and vaccines, to spices and seasonings, to Class 8 road tractors.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
My favorite part of the job is the opportunity to lead a talented, hard-working team with the daily goal of providing unrivalled competitive economic advantage to our owners engaging world class solutions and products of exceptional quality and supply.
How did your CALS experience prepare you for your career?
Of course, from the social aspect, coming from such a small high school, it was a big transition. The poultry science department was like a family. I had already seen the production side growing up, but in terms of the physiology, genetics and nutrition, I learned a lot. And the professors – especially Dr. Stark, Dr. Ferket, Dr. Williams and Dr. Parkhurst – they were all incredible. It has been important for me to stay connected to the poultry science department because of the people and the resources.
What advice would you give a student just starting out in CALS?
My advice to any incoming student would be to not be afraid to think outside of the box. There are many opportunities in our industry. Your professors and advisors can help guide you into what fits your strengths and personality the best, if you are willing to listen. When I started, I had no interest in doing anything other than farming. And now I’ve traveled all over the world and I manage an international company supporting protein production in four countries. So it’s far from what I thought I would be doing when I came to college. My best advice is to keep an open mind.
NOTE: While he was a student at NC State, Wilson was a Marvin and Grace Johnson Poultry Science Scholarship winner.
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