PETERSBURG, Ill. — The owner of a poultry business operating in the heart of central Illinois’ corn and soybean country says he hopes future farmers will also consider specialty farming.

The State Journal-Register ( ) reports that Petersburg Poultry Processing owner Cavan Sullivan sells the assets of pheasants, chickens and turkeys. His operation is surrounded by corn, soybean and wheat crops.

Illinois’ poultry industry is tiny compared to livestock and grain. U.S. Agriculture Department figures show Illinois egg production totaled 1.5 billion in 2016, compared to 13.6 billion in top-producer Iowa.

Sullivan said he grew the family wholesale business out of his own FFA high school project, and it put him through college.

Sullivan gave tours this week to students of the National FFA Organization before the annual Illinois FFA State Convention in Springfield.

“I was in FFA, and I want to encourage people to do small-time agriculture,” Sullivan said. “We want to show these FFA students your project can actually turn into a business. You can do something different than, ‘All right, I’m going to do corn and soybeans, now I’m a farmer.'”

He told the students he faced some challenges starting out, including bankers who were reluctant to approve loans for a pheasant farm.

“They’d tell me, ‘If it was a combine, you’d be fine,'” said Sullivan. “It was a business model they’d never seen.”

Mendota High School FFA adviser Matt Meyer said he tries to expose members to a variety of agricultural careers.

“Everyone tended to pigeonhole us, or typecast us, as the traditional ‘cows, sows and plows,'” Meyer said of the organization. “Anytime we can show other aspects of the industry, I think that’s important.”

Information from: The State Journal-Register,