Who We Are

Family Farming Tradition

In 1947 Oren Starnes returned to Union County from WWII with a desire to alleviate the hunger he had witnessed. He and his wife Helen started a commercial egg business and established both wholesale and retail egg routes. By the 1960’s they had added raising turkeys to their farming operation, around 27,000 annually. In the early days turkeys were started in a brooder house and then moved to the range. Oren and Helen’s son, Sam, joined the family farming business after returning from Vietnam in the early 1970’s. In 1972 Oren and Sam incorporated Circle S Ranch, Inc.

Circle S Ranch, Inc. has steadily grown while remaining true to its roots. Oren passed away in 1987, but the family farming tradition continues. Today Sam remains active in the business and his two sons, Chad and Travis, run the day to day operations. Chad’s daughter Lexie, first of the fourth generation to join the family business, works in the administration department as an accountant.

Raising quality turkeys is Circle S Ranch’s business. Circle S Ranch is one of the country’s major live turkey producers, growing approximately 9 million turkeys a year on a mix of company owned and contract grower farms. Keeping the turkeys properly cared for and fed is a major undertaking. Circle S Ranch has multiple departments dedicated to meeting this task: Live Production, Feed Mill, Shavings Mill, Row Crop, Transportation and Administration.

The Team

Sam O. Starnes

Chairman of the Board

Sam grew up on the family farm in Union County, NC, where he still resides today.   Early on his parents (Oren and Helen Starnes) were in the chicken layer business selling wholesale eggs to A & P Warehouse for distribution, while also selling eggs directly to restaurants and door to door in Charlotte neighborhoods.  In the 1960’s they started growing turkeys on the family farm with the poults starting in a brooder house and finishing them on the range.

Sam graduated from high school in 1969 and started at Wingate College, but having a low draft number he decided to enlist in the Army and served a tour during the Vietnam War.  After returning from the war he joined the family business, he and his father incorporated Circle S Ranch, Inc. in 1972.  In July of 1973 he married Freida Cunningham (now Frieda Starnes) and they have two sons:  Samuel Chad Starnes (Chad); and Matthew Travis Starnes (Travis) and five (5) grandchildren.  Both Chad and Travis returned to the farm after completing their educations and both are actively involved in the family business.  

Under Sam’s guidance Circle S Ranch, Inc. has grown into one of the nation’s major turkey producers.  His business sense and risk tolerance have allowed Circle S Ranch to consistently grow and he is a respected leader in the turkey industry at the national level. 

Chad Starnes


Chad Starnes has worked in the family business since his youth. After graduating from Wingate University in 1995 with a degree in Business Management, he began working full-time at Circle S. While starting out in row crop management, through the years he has expanded his leadership into live production and feed mill management and throughout all facets of the company. Chad and his wife Lisa Griffin Starnes were married in 1996 and are the proud parents of three children: Lexie, Ava and Sam. An active member of Calvary Baptist Church, he is also a sports enthusiast who loved coaching all three of his children in multiple sports including basketball and softball. In his free time, Chad enjoys hunting and playing golf. 

Travis Starnes

Vice President

Travis Starnes has worked in the family business since childhood.  He has managed the family’s row crop operation, land clearing division, and grain elevators for the past 26 years while also helping manage the company owned turkey farms.  Travis has a passion for raising crops and animals.  He has served as a board member for the North Carolina Soybean Association and serves on the Union County Agricultural Advisory Board.  Travis and his wife Amber Starnes were married in 2009 and have two children:  EllaJune and Oren.  He is an avid outdoorsman who loves to spend time on the lake with his family and loves to hunt.

Lexie Starnes


Lexie is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Baylor University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She is also currently pursuing her Master’s in Accounting at Wingate University. While at Baylor, Lexie was chosen to participate in multiple scientific research studies. She also spent a semester studying abroad in the Netherlands with fellow biology majors, which afforded her the opportunity to gain a global perspective regarding the multifaceted nature of science. As the great granddaughter of Circle S Ranch founder, Oren Starnes, the eldest grandchild of Sam, and daughter of Chad, Lexie is excited to be a part of the family business she has grown up in.

James Allen Lee

General Manager

James Allen Lee earned a bachelor’s in Animal Science from NC State in 1998. After college, he worked at Circle S Ranch’s new feed mill in Richburg, SC for four years before attending law school at Campbell. After law school Mr. Lee was engaged in the private practice of law for seventeen years. He is licensed to practice in both North and South Carolina. Mr. Lee rejoined Circle S Ranch in July of 2022 as General Manager and General Counsel.  He is a lifelong resident of Union County and currently resides in the Wingate area with his wife, two daughters, and their animals. 

Chad Larson

Live Operations Manager

Chad was as born and raised on a Southeastern Minnesota Turkey farm, Attended North Carolina State University and received a BS in Poultry Science. Prior to coming to Circle S Ranch he had worked in serval positions in the turkey industry, including as a independent grower. Chad lives with his wife and son in the New Salem NC area. In his spare time, he services as a lieutenant for the New Salem Volunteer Fire Department and enjoys flying, scuba diving and shooting sports.

Jeremy Helms


Jeremy Helms earned his master’s degree from The Citadel in 2011, and his bachelor’s at nearby Wingate University. While at Wingate, Jeremy was a pitcher on the baseball team. He has been with Circle S Ranch since 2015, and with his 12+ years in the financial industry, Jeremy leads the accounting team and coordinates all financial functions. He is a born and raised Union County native and grew up just down the road from Circle S Ranch.

In his spare time, you’ll catch Jeremy on the softball field, cheering on his favorite sport teams, and hanging out with his family and two dogs (Merci and Shelby).

Kristi Klepper

Director of Human Resources

Kristi Klepper, SHRM-CP, is the Director of Human Resources here at Circle S Ranch.  With 10+ years of expertise in Human Resources. Her comprehensive background in HR management, retention, compensation, recruitment, labor relations, policy interpretation, training and communication has resulted in strong and trusting relationships with her staff on all levels.  

She enjoys staying busy volunteering with her certified therapy dog on the weekends and gardening; with a focus on sustainability and self-reliance food growing.

Brian Smith

Feed Mill Manager

Brian Smith our feed mill manager has been in the milling industry for 18 years. After graduating high school, Brian joined the Marines for 8 years where he was an Intelligence Analyst. Brian spent the next 8 years as a millwright in the paper industry where he excelled in industrial maintenance.  He then spent the next 5 years as an engineer in an automated bakery before finding his true calling of feed manufacturing. He brings his expertise in all aspects of feed mill management, leadership and maintenance to Circle S Ranch. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his daughter in the great outdoors, lake days, camping and fishing.

Steven Coward

Transportation Manager

Our Transportation Manager is a native of Tennessee and moved to the Monroe region in 2009. His background includes farming, automotive & fleet maintenance, the repossession industry, food recycling, and feed manufacturing. He is an adventurer at heart and enjoys his time in the wild with his family almost as much as his time at the office. After more than a decade in feed mill management he joined the Circle S team in 2021.