Pilgrim’s is providing an update on how funds are being invested in Ellijay, Ga., to support the community’s future through the company’s Hometown Strong program.

In September 2020, Pilgrim’s announced a $535,000 investment in the community. The company has worked closely with local leaders to identify where the funds can best help meet immediate and longer-term community needs in three key areas: food insecurity, community infrastructure and well-being and COVID-19 emergency response and relief efforts. 

In partnership with Gilmer County Board of Education, Pilgrim’s will provide $400,000 to construct a Broiler Farm Research Facility for Gilmer County FFA programs. The research facility will be a fully operational broiler farm complete with all necessary equipment to simulate a commercial broiler operation and will be managed with expectations and best practices used by growers who contract with Pilgrim’s. The research facility will also allow the FFA program to develop classes focused on poultry nutrition, disease prevention and animal welfare, and students will receive hands-on experience in the process of raising and processing the birds in a real-world setting. Through the Gilmer County FFA program, more than 700 elementary to high school students will have the opportunity to learn from this facility annually.

“The Pilgrim’s Hometown Strong program allows us to make meaningful investments in important community resources, including from an education standpoint,” said Randy Long, Pilgrim’s Ellijay complex manager. “This research facility will serve as a valuable resource for FFA students, school faculty, the community and the future of the animal agriculture industry in our area.”

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“Pilgrim’s has made a vast investment in the Gilmer County Agricultural Education Program and our community by providing the program with a poultry research facility,” said Michael A. Bushey, Agricultural Education Department head. “This facility and partnership are a perfect example of community and stakeholder engagement in the school system and specifically the Ag Ed Program at Gilmer County Schools. This will also allow students in poultry science courses to gain real world experience and realize the many opportunities that the poultry industry provides within our hometown.” 

The Pilgrim’s Ellijay production facility employs more than 1,100 people with an annual payroll of more than $33 million. The facility supports 221 growers, paying them more than $32 million per year for their chickens. 

Pilgrim’s anchors dozens of rural communities–operating more than 30 meat poultry and prepared foods facilities and employing 31,000-plus people in the United States. Nationally, the Hometown Strong initiative is a $20 million investment from Pilgrim’s, which is part of a $70 million nationwide contribution from JBS USA. Visit hometownstrong.jbssa.com to learn more.