Pay it Forward

Bastiaan (left to right), Louise and Gijs Schimmel, who own Centurion Poultry, created an endowment in an effort to bolster CAES students' education and opportunities in the poultry industry. Photo by Kathryn Schiliro

Schimmel Family Creates Endowment for CAES Students

Gijs Schimmel established what would become the family poultry business in Lexington, Georgia, 25 years ago, following a move from Holland to the U.S. at the behest of the European poultry genetics company he was working for at the time.

When that company failed, Gijs and his wife, Louise, decided in 1991 to take over some of the company’s U.S. farm and hatchery leases. They partnered with the company’s new owner to bring grandparent stock to the U.S. and become that company’s North American distributor, establishing Centurion Poultry, Inc.

In the early ‘90s, Centurion was comprised of two products: table layers and broiler stock. The company developed table layers from the grandparent stock brought to the U.S. After years of research and testing, this portion of the business took off in 1998, resulting in the acquisition of about 800 acres in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, where its breeding operation and headquarters are located today. The broiler stock was lucrative and provided the seed money to develop the market for the egg layers, but was discontinued, said Gijs, Centurion Poultry president.

In a later effort to diversify Centurion Poultry, Gijs and Louise’s son and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences alumnus Bastiaan Schimmel (BSA – Agricultural and Applied Economics, ’02) established Tetra Americana, a company that deals in egg layers. After returning to Holland to obtain a doctorate and then working in sales and exports at a small, family-owned feed business there, Bastiaan accepted his father’s invitation to head Centurion Poultry’s Tetra Americana division in 2005.

In 2008, Centurion Poultry took over Pure Line Genetics, a broiler breeding operation. Last year, the company made an arrangement to take over U.S. marketing and distribution of one line of layer chicks – H&N International’s Nick Chick.

Centurion Poultry is now over 50 employees strong; has several operations in Georgia and Alabama; and, through Pure Line Genetics, is working on developing specialty products.

“In the marketplace, people want to have so many different types of eggs and meat,” Gijs said. “We are eyeing the market and looking at what people want.”

Throughout the 25 years of Centurion Poultry, the Schimmels have leaned on University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and the CAES Department of Poultry Science for advice.

“I had a lot of contact with the Extension service, with the University of Georgia,” Gijs said. “I had a lot of knowledge, but I didn’t feel that I knew enough to do everything on my own.”

Last year, the Schimmels decided to create an endowment with the college. The family previously contributed to CAES; they set up a scholarship about 10 years ago and provide internships to students in the poultry science department.

“We have a warm spot in our hearts for the University of Georgia, for the poultry science program, and we strongly believe that when you make money in the industry, it is good to give back,” Gijs said. “What is a better way of giving back than giving to education? That’s why we have given this endowment … Hopefully there will be many young people benefitting from it, getting a college education, getting to know more about poultry. This industry is very vibrant … We see so many opportunities.”