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SF Adapt: Sullivan Pheasant Farm Switches From Hunters to Consumers
Encouraging parents and strong interests led Cavan Sullivan to where he is today, producing 150,000 pheasants each year and opening a USDA-inspected poultry hatchery and processing facility near Petersburg, Illinois.
Sullivan’s interest started at a young age. In kindergarten, he got an incubator and began hatching eggs. When he entered high school, he turned his interests into an FFA wildlife management project. Raising between 200 and 300 pheasant eggs per year, he learned about both record keeping and selling chicks and adult birds. Encouraged by his parents to continue this work to help pay for college, Sullivan expanded his small business and focused on advertising. As he created an internet presence for his endeavor, he learned how pheasants were a niche market with little competition. What started as a hobby turned into a full-time, profitable business.
Switch from Hunters to Consumers
When Sullivan started his business at Sullivan Pheasant Farm, the adult birds were sold mainly to hunters and dog trainers. However, as the business grew, he saw an increase in demand for pheasant meat. This caused the business to shift from mainly a conservation and hunting operation to providing pheasants for consumption. There was one issue with this, though. The demand for harvested pheasants outweighed the ability to find somewhere to process the adult birds.
“The place where I was going just couldn’t keep up with the number of birds I wanted processed,” says Sullivan. “In speaking with the owner, he made a comment about me starting my own processing facility. At first I didn’t think anything of it, but then I started thinking this could really work.”
Work, it did. In November 2016, Sullivan, his wife, Sydney, and his brother, Steele, opened a USDA-inspected hatchery and processing facility, Petersburg Poultry Processing. This facility specializes in niche markets and small growers. The hatchery provides many different types of birds, including heritage-breed chickens, ring-necked pheasants, turkeys, Rock Cornish hens, and a few others.
“Customers can buy chicks and book a processing day at the same time,” says Sullivan. “We have a more personal feel and a slower pace than larger facilities. We can take a more personal approach.”
With the ability to harvest 10,000 birds per week (the plant’s full capacity), the facility offers other small growers a place to get processed or specialized products.
helping other game bird owners
Education is a large part of Sullivan’s business. He welcomes calls and is happy to answer questions from other game bird owners.
“Challenges are going to happen, and they aren’t always going to happen between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week,” says Sullivan. “We aren’t afraid to share our knowledge with our customers, because we want to help them be successful in growing their birds.”
Whether educating a first-time grower or lining up growers with a market, the family enjoys helping and teaching others in the industry.
“Our business acts like an incubator for other small growers,” Sullivan says. In fact, the hatchery is his favorite part of their business.
“The miracle of having a chick pop out of the egg after so many weeks is incredible every time,” he says. “The hatchery is where my passion lies, and the rest of our business is what allows us to have our hatchery.”
Ag diversification adds profit today (ADAPT). Here are a few farmers who take advantage of consumer trends. Steal an idea or two: