Family businesses thrive over generations
It is rare these days to come across a family business that was founded and is still run by the same family over 85 years later.
But the Fuchs family with Ideal Poultry Breeding Farms Inc. can claim this rarity. The Department of Poultry Science at the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has contributed to their continued success for four generations.
A survival story
Ideal Poultry was founded in 1937 by brothers Leo and Theo Fuchs to earn a living and support their families after the Great Depression. The story of Ideal Poultry is one of survival to success.
The company has grown over the years into a leader in the production of non-commercial poultry, selling more than 6 million chicks, ducks and other young poultry annually, according to its website.
They attribute their success to following sound Christian principles and providing quality products and services to their customers, backed by the knowledge many family members received at Texas A&M University.
From 1946 to 1973, Leo and his wife Edna were the sole owners of Ideal Poultry until they sold the business to their youngest son, Monroe Fuchs ’56. Third generation of Fuchs, siblings Gary Fuchs ’78, President; Janet Crouch, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer; and Cameron Vice President Teri Adcox ’90 oversee operations.
The fourth generation of the Fuchs family, many of whom are also Aggies, have followed in their parents’ footsteps and are helping to run the family business of more than 50,000 poultry farmers. Ideal Poultry currently hatches 79 standard breeds, 58 bantam breeds, nine duck breeds, three goose breeds, four guinea breeds and nine traditional breeds of turkey, ringneck and chukar.
Giving back to future generations
The Fuchs understand the value of high-quality training and know what it can contribute to the success of a company. The family is dedicated to supporting future generations of Aggie poultry scientists and producers through four endowed grants.
“The donation to the department began with my father’s decision to establish a scholarship in honor of my grandparents, Leo and Edna,” said Gary Fuchs.
Following the legacy of giving established by their father, the siblings continue to support the department.
“Our family and company have tried to support the Department of Poultry Science over the years,” he continued. “The endowments were an extension of our grant program and a demonstration of our commitment to the future of the department and the poultry industry.”
Following Monroe Fuchs’ initial donation and as a result of their success with Ideal Poultry, the Fuchs family was able to establish the Monroe H. Fuchs, Susan and Gary Fuchs, and Janet and DA Crouch scholarships for poultry science students.
With 10 Texas A&M graduates in the family, it’s no surprise that the Fuchs family values the education and experiences the university can offer and wants to provide those opportunities to others.
“I never knew another university was growing up,” said Gary Fuchs.
Knowing and working with many members of the poultry science faculty during his childhood contributed to his decision to attend university. Below, Gary Fuchs explains his time in the department and what it’s like to run a multi-generational family business.
Why Texas A&M and Poultry Science?
Growing up, I knew several poultry science faculty members because of our involvement in the industry. Roy Fanguy, Ph.D., assisted me with my high school research fair project lab work, and WF Krueger, Ph.D., and others toured our facilities regularly as consultants.
The department was fairly small between 1974 and 1978, which allowed students to develop relationships with faculty and staff. I think that’s still the case, even if the department is bigger now. But back then, I think it was common for my classmates and I to like CB Ryan, Ph.D., who coached the jury team. At that time it wasn’t like today’s competition to form the team and we organized it so that four students formed the team every year. The collaboration with Dr. Ryan was good and a great mentor to many of us.
Did you have a favorite poultry education class?
Poultry products was my favorite. In the mid to late 1970s, the development of processed poultry meat products was an ongoing project. As part of the laboratory work for the classroom, we had the opportunity to evaluate several products during their development.
What advice would you give to students interested in a career similar to yours, whether it be running a family business or a hatchery?
To be honest, there aren’t many careers like the ones I have through our family business. However, if you have a small business opportunity, a few things come to mind: get to know your business, focus on what you do best, make good products, have great customer service, don’t be afraid to reach out adapt to changing business conditions and maintain your business integrity.
What do you do at Ideal Poultry?
I started working at Ideal right after graduating in May 1978. My initial role was that of breeding manager. When the need arose a few years later, I expanded my duties to include the role of hatchery manager.
I like to say that the title of President is a corporate title and has virtually nothing to do with the actual duties I perform in our business. A lot of what I do now is observing and monitoring.
I assist in the administration of the hatchery and the breeding farm. The most important thing in my current position is the organization and selection of the breeding pens for our replacement breeders. I am also involved in organizing our incubators and selecting day-old chicks for our future breeding stock.
As a small family business, we adapt to different roles as required. Over the years I’ve learned to be a plumber, an electrician, an incubator repairman, a vaccination crew member, a chick sexer, and just about anything else. As a general rule, everyone is willing to do whatever it takes to make the company successful.
What do you like best about your job?
I enjoy working with the genetics side of our business. Over the years we have worked on projects to develop an exceptional broiler chicken for young broiler shows, developed new breeds of bantam chickens, introduced genes to enable feather sexing of numerous rare breeds of standard chickens and many other projects to produce products that are acceptable our customers.
We work diligently on breed selection and productivity of our chickens. Many of our current breeds were not efficient in terms of egg production, hatchability or breed characteristics when we received our first breeding stock. In some cases we have worked through many generations of poultry to develop a quality product.
How many generations of the Fuchs family currently work at Ideal Poultry?
Over the years four generations of the family have contributed to the family business. 13 family members currently work for Ideal Poultry. Of those 13, 10 are Aggies.
Here is an overview of the family members, their major if they attended Texas A&M, and their position in the company:
- Monroe Fuchs ’56, Poultry Science, retired.
- Gary Fuchs ’78, Poultry Science, President.
- Susan Fuchs ’85, technical training, support.
- Janet Crouch, Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer.
- DA Crouch, support.
- Teri Adcox ’90, Business Administration, Vice President.
- Dennis Adcox, support.
- Stephen Fuchs ’09, Poultry Science, Breeding Manager.
- Mikaela Fuchs ’09, Poultry, Supervision.
- Nathan Fuchs ’12, Poultry Science, Hatchery Manager.
- Ashley Fuchs ’13, Poultry Science, Support.
- Kevin Crouch ’15, Farm Management and Development with a minor in Poultry Science, Sales Manager.
- Kristen Crouch ’15, AG Leadership and Development with a minor in Animal Science, Marketing Director.
Do you have important mentors in your life?
I’ve always looked up to my parents and grandparents. Things like respect for others, integrity and sharing are among the important things they taught me.
Manufacturing quality products and satisfied customers is a recurring theme in some of our company’s history documents. I think we learned these things from our predecessors and try to maintain these goals in our current business structure.
What is your favorite poultry dish?
Chicken and Dumplings.