Gerald James was born in 1972 in Maple Hill, North Carolina to Mary and Nelson James, veteran pasture-raised hog producers and founding members of the North Carolina Natural Hog Growers Association. As their oldest child, Gerald grew up working on the farm, helping his Dad with chores. “But I had no intention of becoming a farmer. Looking back, I think I must have been tricked into doing it.”
After Highschool, Gerald attended Harris Barber College in Raleigh on a vocational scholarship. He went on to obtain his Associate Degree in Theology which is when he met his future wife, Debbie, who was studying business management at Shaw University. After Debbie completed her Masters Degree in Business Administration, she and Gerald moved back to Maple Hill and began building their businesses and a family. Today they own and operate two successful barbershops and beauty salons in Burgaw and Wilmington and a trucking company. They are also both licensed cosmetology and barber instructors. They have three grown sons, all of whom work in the family businesses. And somehow in her free time, Debbie is pursuing a PhD.
Where does hog farming fit into their busy lives? “When my Dad came down with cancer, I realized I might need to help him out on the farm. So those last years of his life, we spent time together feeding the hogs, talking underneath the trees. When he finally passed, I decided to pick up where he left off.” Gerald enjoys watching the animals grow and is interested in developing good quality genetics in his herd. Debbie and their eldest son, Gerald Jr., manage the financial side of the hog operation. Their sons, Jarquell (featured here) and Kemodrick help out with daily chores and are showing a real interest in taking over the business one day.