As marketing manager for Thompson Farms, Abby Thompson knew she would one day return home to work in the family business.
After graduating in 2015 from Georgia College and State University with a degree in communication, Thompson landed her first professional job with the Zimmerman Agency, a high-profile national public relations firm based in Tallahassee. It was at the Zimmerman Agency where Thompson gained experience working with accounts focused on the food industry. Her next career move took her to Atlanta, where she worked for a Fortune 500 technology company.
With the continued growth of Thompson Farms, it wasn’t long before Thompson received an offer from her dad, Andrew, to return home and manage the farm’s marketing efforts.
“The move to Atlanta was something I had always wanted to do,” she said, “but I also knew I would come back home; eventually, this was just a little sooner than I thought.”
A family farm in the truest sense, Thompson’s mother, Jeniffer, is the farm’s chef, providing lunch for approximately 25 employees.
“My Aunt Donna [Anderson] runs the retail side of the farm,” she said. “My brother, Bayly, will graduate from the University of Georgia this year with a degree in agribusiness and start working full time on the farm.”
Being away from the farm for a few years allowed Thompson to gain a greater appreciation for her family’s hard work and dedication.
“Growing up I complained about the chores and work,” she said, “but now it is definitely worth it. When you take time to grow your own food, you have a better understanding of how much work it takes.”
Thompson, who serves as the Georgia Farm Bureau Young Farmer representative for Brooks County, is an advocate for the natural process used on her family’s 550-acre farm.
The Thompson Farm philosophy is focused on raising pigs the ‘old fashion way’ by giving them plenty of room to roam and graze, which not only sets a higher standard for animal welfare but also produces a healthier, all-natural product.
As marketing manager, Thompson is responsible for promoting the business her grandfather, Raymond, started in the 1970s.
“My grandfather always farmed row crops with a few pigs as extra income,” she said. “Eventually he and my dad moved to just pig farming.”
In the early 2000s, Raymond and Andrew developed a plan to expand the pig operation to include raising the animals to packaging the products on their farm in Dixie, Georgia.
In 2008, Thompson Farms secured a contract to supply all-natural pork products to Whole Food Markets throughout Georgia and Florida. In the past 10 years, the distribution has expanded to include Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey (Marlton and Princeton), Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.
With the practice of treating the animals with respect, Thompson said, “We take the responsibility of doing everything ourselves from raising the animal to packaging the pork. It is all done right here on our farm, which is very rare. We have a hand on every step to ensure that our customers are getting the best pork possible.”
That high level of quality and commitment has earned Thompson Farms, a Step 5+ in the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating by the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), which is the highest level in pork production.
“We were the first pig farm in the U.S. to receive a 5+ in the GAP 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating,” Thompson said. “We want to raise the pigs in the right way, not in crates or on concrete slabs. This method requires land and an extensive rotational grazing system to be effective. It is a 24-hour, seven day a week job.”
The GAP 5-Step rating was developed with the animal’s welfare as the primary focus. GAP identifies animal welfare health and productivity, natural living and emotional well-being combined with good management and genetics.
To reach the GAP 5-Step rating, Thompson Farms committed to ensuring the pigs spend their entire life on the farm in a natural setting and not in cages or crates.
“Pigs are naturally very active, and ours move around freely,” Thompson said. “They are continually grazing on grass. We also provide them with roasted non-GMO corn and non-GMO soybean meals as part of their daily diets.”
All natural and pasture raised, Thompson said the pigs are “happy and healthy.”
In addition to Whole Food Markets, products from Thompson Farms can be purchased online or at its retail store located off U.S. 84 in Brooks County.