THE farm operation is rapidly growing with 270 Cornish
Cross chickens, 28 Berkshire hogs, and two litters due
in June, but beef is the main thing, including 158 Angus
cows. The Wilders Wagyu herd currently numbers
more than 300 head, with 34 calves born by mid-May this year, and
another 70 expected.
“That’s the best beef out there,” says Reid.
The Wagyu cow was imported from Japan in 1976 before the
government gave the breed a national treasure designation and
banned exportation. It is said that less than 2,000 Wagyu were
exported to the U.S.
“They only brought a handful over of full-blooded 100 percent
registered Wagyu cattle. Now there’s between 15,000 and 20,000
domestically, that’s it. The Japanese view the Wagyu cows from the
Kobe region as a national treasure. They take it as seriously as we take
college football,” Reid says.
There is a crossbred American Wagyu, but it is not full-blooded
“We can trace all of our cows back to that original lineage. For
each one of our registered cows, we know dating back four to five
generations what their lineage is. We actually use that in our matings,
as we are trying to improve our genetics,” says Reid.
At Wilders, genetics is a passion.
“What we’re trying to do with genetics is to continue to improve
and balance the marbling with the size of the animals,” Reid says.
The Wagyu cow genetically have a condition that allows them to
marble. Most cows when they get to that age, they start to lose their
Marbling impacts the beef’s flavor, texture, tenderness and juici-ness.
52 july 2022
ON West Main Street in downtown Clayton, a
two-story, block deep brick building that once
housed the North Carolina Paper Company,
founded in 1919, is home to parent company
RiverWild. Not much has changed on the outside but inside it is
a modern office space for the couple’s businesses, complete with
kitchen where gourmet lunches are created for employees from what
is grown at Wilders.
“RiverWild has a lot of the executive leadership, investment and
services for all of our other brands including Wilders and RiverWild.
There are seven different companies that span the development,
construction, and real estate process but then also a nonprofit,” says
communications manager Hannah Smith (no relation).
These include Hearth Pointe Development doing land acquisi-tion
and entitlement; Jaclyn Smith Properties, the real estate arm;
One27, handling residential construction; Providence Construction
for land clearing, grading and site work; the agriculture Wilders;
and a nonprofit.
What’s in a name?
“RiverWild, the Wild is our core values, how we do business,”
Wild acts as an acronym: Will to win, Intentional adaptability,
Live compassionately, and Disciplined execution.
“Wilders connects our core values with Wild. Wilders was also
the township I grew up in. We live here in Johnston County and
have started to raise a family. Just the concept of doing business with
local farmers, we kinda like that name. We are trying to get new
business as close to your local township as possible,” Reid says.
The couple started their nonprofit, One Compassion, when they
started their businesses. It is focused on the community where they
live, to serve those who are struggling and need a helping hand,
including quality groceries for families.
Turkey, home to 427 on the 2020 census, was named in colonial
times for the proliferation of wild turkeys in the area.
Above: Reid and Jaclyn Smith market their meat at the Wrightsville
Beach Monday Farmer’s Market on Memorial Day 2022. Top: The
Wilders crew—Lupe Martinez, Director of Agriculture Jake Newbold,
Omar Martinez, Jaclyn Smith, Reid Smith, Danielle Lantz, Jason
Taylor, Cody Hairr and Mr. Carl Faison.