Challenge: Hickman’s Family Farms began on Grandmother Nell Hickman’s porch in 1944 in Glendale, Arizona. Growing from an enterprise with an original flock of 50 chickens, Hickman’s Family Farms is now the largest egg company in the Southwest. A pivotal moment in this success story came in 1995 as brothers Glenn and Billy Hickman put together plans to dramatically expand their business. They knew that they would need a growing, reliable workforce to realize their vision. “But it was very difficult to keep folks around long enough to really learn the business,” Operations VP Billy Hickman explained, “it’s not fun work but everyone in the family and on staff has pitched in to do it when necessary. It’s dirty work; we’ve appeared on Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs series – twice!”
Solution: Since ACI did not have an inmate Labor Partnership program at the time, Hickman’s worked directly with ADCRR Leadership to bring a single work crew from ASPC-Perryville, where 10 men took a van to their farm each day. They were trained to repair and assemble chicken coops. Retired ACI Director John Spearman worked closely with the Perryville Warden which proved instrumental in getting the program off the ground.
That first small work crew proved so competent that Hickman’s immediately began expanding the program, teaching inmate crews how to care for the hens, process and package the eggs.
These crews helped fill in the gaps in Hickman’s labor pool and allowed them to expand and modernize their operations. Prior to Covid inmate work crews came from three different complexes to work at three different Hickman locations, 186 male and 93 female inmates. To isolate an inmate work crew from the rest of the prison population during the pandemic, Hickman worked with ADCRR and ACI to build out a temporary housing unit on their property in Buckeye to house 114 female inmates. Currently 92 are learning new skills each day as they help to keep Hickman’s expanding business. More than 70 ex-offenders are now working full-time at Hickman’s Family Farms.