Welcome Pitman Family Farms

 

Feb. 1, 2018

 

The acquisition of Norbest by Pitman Family Farms of the San Joaquin Valley in California is great news for Sanpete County.

Pitman Family Farms has a good reputation in California. Like Norbest, it prides itself on humane treatment of animals and no antibiotic use.

We like the fact that Pitman is family-owned. Historically, our turkey industry has been based on family-owned turkey farms. And the fact that the Pitman family is LDS means it will fit into the local culture.

Above all, we appreciate the fact that the Pitmans, like virtually every poultry operation in the country, has surmounted its own business struggles.

For more than 20 years, Moroni Feed, later renamed Norbest, has gone through ups and downs with an indomitable will to hang on.

In 1995, the company took the deepest dive since its founding in 1938. The 65 grower-owners at the time considered disbanding Moroni Feed.

But they decided they had invested too much for too many years to give up. So instead, they hired David Bailey as CEO and charged him with implementing a five-year expansion plan.

In 2001, the Salt Lake office of Ernst & Young named Bailey as the Utah Young Entrepreneur of the Year for essentially saving the company.

In 2008, the price of corn, the main ingredient in turkey feed, rose to the point where costs of production exceeded the price of turkey.

The frustrating thing was that the root of the problem was government action. The federal government started subsidizing production of ethanol. Corn got channeled into ethanol, creating a shortage for other uses. That shortage created the price hike.

Moroni Feed implemented a 90-day phased shutdown and temporarily laid off 400 workers.

But by 2010, the plants in Moroni and Salina were humming again and the company announced a goal of producing 100 million pounds of turkey that year, a company record

In 2015, facing a need for capital, high demand for turkey and a decline in the number of active turkey growers in the county, Norbest brought in J.S. Heiskell & Co. of Tulare, Calif. and AMERRA Capital Management of Wilmington, N.Y. as external investors.

In 2017, the company was apparently facing a financial crisis again. There was talk of bankruptcy and liquidation. That was when a yet-to-be identified figure in the local turkey industry, an anonymous “hero,” stepped in and brokered the sale to Pitman.

We say “thank you” to all who have helped keep Moroni Feed and Norbest alive over the years and preserved the hundreds of jobs involved.

Now, with the community, we say, “Welcome Pitman Family Farms.” We support you in your goal of making the Sanpete County turkey industry profitable, and we look forward to becoming better acquainted.