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VPGC President Jim Mason Honored by the Harrisonburg Chamber of Commerce

HARRISONBURG — In 2004, when the potential closure of a poultry processing plant threatened the livelihood of dozens of Valley growers and hundreds of jobs, the Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative called on Jim Mason to be part of its leadership team.

On Thursday night, the local business community thanked him for those and other contributions. He was one of three people and a family honored as the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce kicked off its 100th anniversary celebration with its annual banquet and awards ceremony at the James Madison University Festival Conference and Student Center.

Dwight and Betsy Newman and their son, Dwight William, of Cross County Angus in Cross Keys were recognized as the Farm Family Stewardship award winners. Matchbox Realty and Property Management CEO Barry Kelley was named Entrepreneur of the Year, and WHSV-TV3 General Manager Tracey Jones received the Community Champion award.

Mason was hired as the general manager of the VPGC in 2004 after a group of local businessmen bought the Hinton poultry plant Pilgrim’s Pride was closing.
In the years since, VPGC has become America’s eighth-largest turkey processor, and Mason has become its president. The plant processed 250 million pounds of turkey and recorded sales in excess of $260 million in 2014, employs 560 people, and has 165 contract growers.

And the business is growing. VPGC plans to invest nearly $62 million to expand its Rawley Pike plant by 80,000 square feet and upgrade its Broadway feed mill and Linville grain elevator. Mason grew up in the industry, helping his father grow and sell poultry, and he continues to raise turkeys and grow crops on his farm in western Rockingham County. In 1967, he began working summers for Virginia Valley Processors in the same plant the poultry cooperative owns and operates. Wampler Foods later acquired the company, and Mason rose through its ranks to become president of Wampler Foods and executive vice president of WLR Foods.

 He’s a past president of the Virginia Poultry Federation and Virginia Turkey Association and has served on the executive committee of the National Turkey Federation. Locally, he’s been on boards that governed the former Rockingham Memorial Hospital and F&M Bank Corp.

VPGC specializes in fresh turkey products. In the video introduction about the chamber award, Mason said the company ships between 80 percent and 85 percent of its turkeys the same day they’re processed, which he said is “unheard of” in the industry.

He also said he guides the company with a simple premise. “One of the things in my past life, we were going a hundred different directions every day in the plant,” Mason said in the video that preceded the award presentation. “Well, you can’t be efficient doing that. So, we do the same thing every day, and we know where our product is going.”

-Excerpted from The Daily News Record, January 8, 2016
©2011 Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative, Inc.