Proud Past, Promising Future
Sunset Farm Foods Celebrating 100 Years
“In the early years we sold meat to independently owned grocery stores. These were what you would call ‘mom and pop’ stores, most of them were about the size of a convenience store today.” –Jimmy Carroll, Jr.
In 1918, Walter W. Carroll began selling two sides of beef a week to a local market in Valdosta. It was his determination and entrepreneurial spirit that eventually became Sunset Farm Foods, a company that is celebrating 100 years of business.
Continuing the family tradition, James D. Carroll Sr., began working for his father in 1932, followed by his two sons, James “Jimmy” Carroll, Jr., and Walter “Bo” Carroll II, in 1965 and 1971, respectively.
Representing the fourth generation, Tom Carroll now serves as president and CEO of the company his great-grandfather started.
Tom returned to Valdosta in 1997 to help his father, Jimmy, manage Sunset Farm Foods, which now has approximately 140 employees.
“After college, I worked for eight years in the computer industry,” said Tom, who graduated from Duke University with a degree in computer science and economics. “I got a call from my dad giving me the opportunity to come home and help run the company.”
Tom said he welcomed the opportunity to come back and be a part of a company he has known all his life.
“It has been a big undertaking,” Tom said. “Where I was before, I could change jobs or go and do something else, but now there is an obligation to do it right and carry on the family business.”
Though he is officially retired, Jimmy still comes to the office daily and is quick to admit that he likes to give his opinion.
“I try to stay out of the way and let Tom run things,” Jimmy said. “I sit in on some meetings, and if I feel brave, I let them know what I am thinking. Most of the time I just listen.”
Through the years, the company has experienced several name changes. Starting as W.W. Carroll & Son it became Carroll Stockyard in 1938. Ten years later, with more of an emphasis on retail and wholesale food distribution, the name was changed to Carroll Packing Company. In 1980, the name Sunset Farm Foods was introduced.
“In the early years we sold meat to independently owned grocery stores,” Jimmy said. “These were what you would call ‘mom and pop’ stores, most of them were about the size of a convenience store today.
The smaller, locally owned stores were eventually replaced by supermarkets, and Jimmy said that is when Carroll Packing Company began wholesale distribution of its products.
“At first the big stores didn’t think we could supply enough meat for them,” said Jimmy. “When they would run out and need meat or pork, they would call us to see what we had to sell.”
Jimmy recalled that the company’s surge in the sausage industry came in 1969 with the creation of a new line of smoked sausage.
“It was Jack Knight, who we hired in 1968 that developed a line of smoked sausage that is still our best-seller,” Jimmy said. “Mr. Knight really gave us our boost in the sausage business.”
Today, Sunset Farms Foods product line is focused on pork smoked sausage, chicken sausage, fresh sausage, and boneless ham. You can even find their sliced sausage in nationally distributed frozen entrées.
Another growth in sales came in 1975 when Carroll Packing Company successfully completed a rigorous federal inspection that allowed its products to be shipped outside of Georgia.
“Once we were approved to ship to other states we dramatically increased our sales,” Tom said. “Sunset Farm products are now shipped to approximately 20 states, mostly within the Southeast. We are also in the Caribbean, Central America, and all the military commissaries worldwide, and this gives us great visibility.”
Tom said the company has continued to grow because of its commitment to produce quality products and retain dedicated employees.
“We have employees that have been with us for 15 to 30 years,” Tom said. “This allows us to have consistency in all our product lines.”
Sunset Farm Foods continues to give back to the Lowndes County community through sponsorship and participation with various nonprofit organizations including the Greater Valdosta United Way, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Children’s Advocacy Center, and LAMP (Lowndes Associated Ministries to People).
“Each year we donate nearly 7,000 pounds of meat to local organizations,” Tom said. “We also support veteran organizations and local church and school fundraisers.”