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Rising star in poultry production to speak Nov. 11

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Now is a good time for entrepreneurship in the agriculture industry. That will be a message at the fourth annual Wiswell-Robeson Lecture at Monmouth College on Nov. 11.

This year’s Wiswell-Robeson lecturer has plenty of experience as well as a great story as an agripreneur – he took his operation from 50 chicks to the country’s largest pastured poultry producer.

Paul Greive, owner of the companies Pasturebird and Primal Pastures, will speak at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 in the College’s Dahl Chapel and Auditorium. Titled “Agripreneurship in 2019: What Are You Waiting For?,” the lecture is free and open to the public.

“A concept that may be interesting for students is I’ll really be pushing the incredible opportunity for entrepreneurship within agriculture right now,” said Greive. “There has never been a better time or more efficient time for building small business within our space.”

Greive’s agriculture story begins with the improvements he saw in his health when switching to a Paleo diet, essentially eating foods that would have been available to cavemen. His family soon joined him, and they also saw benefits to their health.

Going Paleo opened Greive’s and his family’s eyes to the fact that labels that included terms such as grass-fed, free-range, organic and antibiotic-free were deceiving. So in 2012, the family purchased 50 chicks and the business Pasturebird was born.

Pasturebird differs from other chicken farms by offering chickens that are always on fresh grass and never given antibiotics.

“We’re able to achieve this by raising chickens with a free-range experience from Day One where they are raised outside, on grass, soaking up vitamin D and scratching at the ground for bugs and worms,” said Greive. “We’re also really interested in this concept of regenerative agriculture – the idea that livestock, managed properly, can actually be extremely beneficial to soil health.”

Over the next few years, the Greives realized that there was a huge gap in the market for pastured poultry into wholesale accounts such as restaurants, groceries, butcher shops and online retail. People wanted it, but the actual product didn't really exist. Their farm continued to grow and has become the largest pastured poultry producer in the nation.

In 2018, Pasturebird was featured on the CNBC show Billion Dollar Buyer, which led to a $240,000 deal for the company to serve its chicken in Landry’s Inc. restaurants.

Greive and his family now own both Pasturebird and Primal Pastures, where they sell other pasture-raised meats. Primal Pastures currently offers sheep, cows and two breeds of pigs.

The Wiswell-Robeson Lecture was founded in 2016 through a gift from 1960 Monmouth graduate Jeanne Gittings Robeson of Monmouth. The lecture’s purpose is to annually feature a speaker from the agriculture community who explores issues, challenges and innovations in the industry.

Robeson and her late husband, Don Robeson, who was a 1954 Monmouth graduate, operated their farm in Warren County. This year’s lecture is especially significant for Robeson because Greive is her great nephew-in-law.