Day Job/Night Job: Family Farmers, Wholesale Parts Experts---The Hunt Family

the Hunt family
From left: Paul Hunt, Tammy Hunt, Ken Buck, Ella Buck, Cassidy Hunt and JP Hunt operate the Hunt Family Preserve in New Jersey when Paul and Tammy aren't working in the wholesale parts department for Flemington Car and Truck Country/NJ Parts.

When Tammy and Paul Hunt aren't working in the wholesale parts department of Flemington Car and Truck Country/NJ Parts in Flemington, NJ, they run a farm/hunting preserve and help the community whenever they can.

It's a busy life consisting of many 14—16-hour days, but the Hunt family loves it and wouldn't change it for all the money in the world.

As the owners and operators of the Hunt's Family Preserve in Hunterdon County, NJ, Tammy and David grow hay and raise game birds to be hunted at their 140-acre preserve. For the past 13 years, hunters from all over the world have come to hunt for pheasants and Chukar for two-hour or four-hour stints. Last year, they raised 2,000 pheasants and 600 Chukar for the bird hunting season, which goes from October through March. Starting in May, the farm grows hay, which is harvested in September---just in time to prepare for the hunting season.

The entire Hunt family is involved in the operation of the farm, with their two sons helping out wherever needed while their daughter, Cassidy, runs a small business selling eggs. The farm does not turn a profit, but selling the hay and running the hunting preserve pays for itself, Tammy said.

"All of the money we make on the farm goes right back into the operation to keep it going,” Tammy said. “It involves a lot of work, but in the end it's worth it. It's been satisfying to watch my children growing up on the farm. They raise the pheasants from day-old chicks until they're mature at around 22--24 weeks and weigh roughly 3 pounds. It teaches them things like responsibility and the value of hard work."

Raising birds is not an easy task, especially when uninvited guests can ruin their season.

"We had a fox who got into one of our pens one season, and he killed 280 birds. A raccoon also got 150 one time," Paul said. "The birds can also get sick when they're young, and if we get a lot of snow and ice here, that can affect the flock as well."

When she isn't running a farm, Tammy wears a lot of hats at Flemington Car and Truck Country/NJ Parts---and she likes it that way, she said.

"I process credit applications, do our social media and manage the website, but if I need to write a quote, I'll jump in,” she said. “I used to work in the banking industry, until the last bank I worked for was sold. So I decided to do this and I enjoy it, because every day is different."

Paul has been in the wholesale parts game for 22 years now. He started out as a counterperson and worked his way up to the top, but his first job was working on a dairy farm.

"I'm a third-generation dairy farmer, but I realized many years ago that it's almost impossible to make a living doing it," he said. "I got out in 1992 when the wholesale prices on milk were so low that we couldn't afford to make a profit. The wholesale parts business provides more stability and the hours are a little more reasonable, even though we are running a farm at the same time."

Paul works exclusively on the collision side by getting hundreds of body shops in New Jersey the right parts on time. As the wholesale parts manager at Flemington Car and Truck Country/NJ Parts, he oversees an enormous inventory representing nine dealerships that carry 26 different brands. It's a huge undertaking, but he's not dissuaded by the workload. He prefers working with his knowledgeable crew as opposed to a bunch of cows that just stand around, he said.

By being aware of his customers' unique needs, Paul can better accommodate them.

"[The] wholesale parts [industry] is an ever-changing and extremely competitive industry, and we know that it's not easy for the body shops to make a decent buck," he said. "Their labor rates are stuck at $45--$50 an hour and the insurance companies dictate everything. The quality of aftermarket parts has improved considerably, but most shops still want to use OE parts---and that's why we try to make that happen for them."

Paul also knows that shops expect their parts deliveries to arrive more quickly than ever before, so his department has to respond accordingly.

"We have 32 trucks and we know that our customers are judged by their cycle times and CSI scores," he said. "If our shops call before 1 p.m., we can get them whatever they need the same day. We have to sell service to differentiate from our competitors, and delivery is somewhere we can excel."

Always with an eye to help others, the Hunts all belong to the West Amwell Volunteer Fire Company and are also members of the Future Farmers of America.

"We work with students through their high school agricultural programs and assist them with finances through fundraisers," Tammy said. "The farm life has been wonderful for us, so we want to support the industry if we can, and introducing it to young people is a good way to do it."

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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