Lowery joined the community relations department of Mountaire Farms, the nation’s sixth largest poultry company, in July 2019. Mountaire employs about 10,000 employees across five states ...
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SILER CITY — For many years, Mark Reif served as Mountaire Farms’ only North Carolina community relations manager — so his successor, Jarrod Lowery, 32, knows he has some big shoes to fill.
“Everyone thought the world of Mark, and Mark did a great job of building relationships,” Lowery said. “It’s a really awesome opportunity that the company is putting the trust in me the way they did put trust in Mark. I feel the weight, I feel the responsibility, but I have the confidence that I can deliver just as well as he did.”
Lowery joined the community relations department of Mountaire Farms, the nation’s sixth largest poultry company, in July 2019. Mountaire employs about 10,000 employees across five states, including North Carolina, where the company has invested at least $200 million in expansions since 2016.
Siler City’s Mountaire Farms poultry processing plant officially opened in April 2019.
Before joining Mountaire, Lowery worked in N.C. state government for about seven years as a regional field director with the Office of the Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. Dept. of Insurance — but he said he felt like he just wasn’t serving the community in the way he’d hoped.
As a regional field director, he worked with community nonprofits and civic organizations.
“I would always show up and say, ‘Hey, I’m from the government and I’m here to help,’” he said with a laugh. “But really, there wasn’t any way that I could really help. There wasn’t any way other than me putting together a proposal and sending it up. There wasn’t a way I could really touch the individual community.”
The state, he said, didn’t really have the capacity or resources to truly make a difference in the same way a privately owned company or foundation could.
“I’m a person who believes in community, I believe in supporting home, and I believe in taking care of those around you,” he said, “and Mountaire gives us the opportunity to find ways to help people in the community. We put our chicken where our mouth is. We donate chicken. We donate dollars. We donate manpower and volunteer hours.”
In North Carolina, Mountaire Farms partners with community institutions and nonprofits to raise money, volunteer and feed thousands, he said. The company’s food pantry program invites food pantries across the state — including the Second Harvest Food Bank and the Central Carolina Food Bank — to pick up chicken from Mountaire twice a month. Another feeding program, Thanksgiving for Thousands, provides 10,000 boxes of Thanksgiving meals for countless numbers of families in North Carolina.
Mountaire also donates chicken to churches. Last year, they partnered with St. Julia’s Catholic Church to distribute chicken in the church’s parking lot. They have also partnered with Chatham Habitat for Humanity, the Boys & Girls Club of America and lately, the Salvation Army of Chatham County.
It’s the community relations manager’s job to coordinate all of that, Lowery said, and to ensure that the company gives back to the communities in which they operate.
“Mountaire Farms, we’re a family-owned company,” Lowery said. “We’re a Christian-owned company, and we really believe in giving back. Our creed is to be good stewards of the assets God has provided us.”
Shortly after joining Mountaire, Lowery spent about a year learning the ropes from Reif, who retired at the end of 2020. He described his journey with Mountaire as “an awesome ride,” though it was a bit difficult to adjust at first.
“At the beginning, I felt like I was drinking water from a firehose,” he said. “Everything, I mean, everything was coming at me. It was, ‘OK, Jarrod, you know, you’ve never been a part of the poultry industry. So, let’s tell you what we do. Let’s show you what we do.’”
With support from Reif and company leadership, he steadily began to get the hang of things; as part of that, he spent time at every Mountaire facility in North Carolina, including the company’s facilities in Chatham and Robeson counties.
“I started spending more time in Siler City, and Siler City’s very, very important to our company,” Lowery said. “... I’d say Siler City is a big part of our future, and so when Mark thought I was ready, he said, ‘Come on up.’”
Finally, in November, Lowery said he began assuming Reif’s responsibilities in Siler City, about a month before Reif had planned to retire. Now, he’s North Carolina’s only community relations manager, though as Mountaire expands further into the state, he said that could change.
“Mark and I used to joke and say this is the best job in the company,” he said. “We are able to interact with the community. We’re able to interact — number one — with our employees all over the state and in every role from the processing plant in Siler City, the two hatcheries in Siler City, our truck drivers, our farmers, feed mills.”
In Chatham County, what Lowery is most looking forward to is expanding Mountaire’s feeding programs, especially Thanksgiving for Thousands, and its community service involvement. He’d particularly like to see Thanksgiving for Thousands expand to Easter and Christmas.
Once the pandemic ends, he’d also like to begin partnering with organizations like Chatham Habitat or the Love Creek Watershed Stewards to lead two community service projects a year. With luck, he added, they’ll launch a service project this fall. Ideas so far include cleaning up a neighborhood, helping Chatham Habitat build homes and helping to renovate a park.
In particular, he said he hopes that Mountaire will be able to throw another “Rock-the-Block” event with Chatham Habitat this year, an effort they first organized in 2019 and intended to replicate in 2020 before COVID-19 struck. Volunteers from Mountaire and Chatham Habitat went into neighborhoods and helped with minor home repairs, yardwork, cleaning — anything that was needed, Lowery said.
Since many of Mountaire’s employees in Siler City are Hispanic, Lowery added that Mountaire’s always looking at opportunities “to touch them and give back to their community as well.” The 2019 “Rock-the-Block” event took place in a predominantly Spanish-speaking neighborhood.
“We think that if we continue to do projects like that in community, as community service projects, we’re going to touch everybody,” he said. “We’re going to touch everybody of every background because Mountaire is made up of everybody of every background.”
So far, he said he’s enjoyed getting to know the Siler City community as well as Chatham County.
“There’s a lot of good folks,” Lowery said. “I’ve met a ton of good people and a ton of folks who really care about the community, people who are lifelong members and people who’ve only been there a few years. It’s a really neat, diverse community, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to work in Chatham County.”
Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.