Julian Marcus - Mitchell County
A Civil rights leader's son carries on the legacy through chicken farming
Julian Marcus grew up with a father who braved the tumultuous waters of community activism on behalf of the African American community as a civil rights leader. Little did they know, that activism would one day lead them into chicken farming. As the poultry business started to grow in the region, local leaders approached the senior Mr. Marcus about becoming involved in this emerging industry. At his father’s invitation, the younger Marcus left his quest to climb the corporate ladder to join this new family business in 1995. “I didn’t really know what I was getting into,” he recalls. “Come to find out, [my father] didn’t really know either. We purchased this farm and the four chicken houses and have been working it with the family ever since.”
Now that his father has passed on, Julian fondly recalls that the business partnership gave him a window into the foresight and business competency his dad possessed. “Seeing him being [as an] older more mature gentleman navigate business on the administrative level, watching him maneuver this whole course, and seeing the foresight that he had… was an awesome experience.”
Julian Marcus continues carrying on his father’s legacy of business smarts by taking his chicken house operation to the next level with help from NRCS. Marcus recognizes that he is in a very competitive business. “Technology and innovation are key to being a productive poultry producer,” he asserts. “The only way you will be able to stay [in chicken farming] is by staying ahead of the technology curve. The EQUIP program [through NRCS] has enabled me to do just that.” Marcus utilized the program to maximize efficiency in the operation of his controlled environment poultry houses. This began with an NRCS audit that identified resource concerns, such as high energy use for his Total Confined Operation (TCO, referring to the fully enclosed nature of the poultry operation). Among the various upgrades he was able to implement was the replacement of the controller for his chicken house automation system that aims to maintain an ideal indoor climate. This new equipment facilitates chicken house partition as needed, adjusts lighting throughout the birds’ life cycle to maximize growth, and enables identification of equipment issues that affect energy efficiency. Implementation of these and other recommended practices potentially enable his operation to receive a “Grade A” chicken house designation that results in a higher compensation rate from the integrator for the sale of the broilers.
Through this partnership, NRCS is enabling Marcus to honor his father by developing a continually expanding level of business smarts and strengthen African American participation in this particular sector of agriculture. “NRCS has been very helpful and taken me to another level in my business acumen.” This emerging family legacy has been empowered by NRCS along with other USDA agencies. In addition to NRCS assistance and an FSA loan, he utilized a USDA Rural Development program that facilitated a solar panel array installation. The panels serve to offset the cost of power for his controlled environment chicken houses through an agreement with his energy provider, Georgia Power. The finalization of this arrangement, along with a recent NRCS filming event showcasing his farm, occurred on his late father’s birthday. These events represented a particularly meaningful milestone for the younger Marcus, as his father had retired from Georgia Power.
Marcus’ wife Shirlette affirms the significance of this journey for their family life. “We understand his relationship with his dad, and how important keeping this farm as a whole is. It makes us better than we were before.” She emphasizes that the farm has been an important context for Marcus to develop into a businessman to a greater degree that she had seen before in him. “Things are happening… that his dad would be so proud [of]. [Julian] has a plan and is looking ahead.”
Julian and Shirlette both emphasize the value of the farm for their family life with their two school age daughters. They bring their ballet loving girls out on Saturdays, decked out in farm boots and work gear, teaching them the basic principles of what has to be done on the farm. The girls love holding the baby chicks as well as announcing to friends that they know how to drive a tractor. It’s building their confidence as they assert, “I know how to do this.” “My daughters are excited [about all] they have had to go through as well as see it flourish the way it has,” states Shirlette. “We welcome the opportunity to see the farm as [Julian] does.”
Reflecting on his journey, Julian Marcus recalls how his dream as a younger man was to climb the corporate ladder. “Low and behold, I have been able to do that,” he says, referring to his management of the chicken operation. “[It’s] just not in the manner that I thought it would be. I wish my Dad was here to see all this, but I know he’s watching from heaven. All I can do is tell him thank you; thanks for having that foresight."