All Wisconsinites should have the ability to go to a grocery store and purchase healthy, locally grown food at a reasonable price. All Wisconsin family farmers should be paid the fair market price for their food, and those farmers should be able to raise a family based on sales of their products, e.g. eggs, milk, produce, etc.
Sadly, the above assumptions are not the norm in today’s post recession world. Instead farmers are being told to produce more at a lower cost. Over the last several years the Tholen family, owners of JRS Country Acres, have noticed that many of the small, independently-owned family farms that are their neighbors in rural Jefferson County, have been faced with the dilemma to either get bigger or retire (and sell the land for development.)
During this same time, JRS Country Acres has been expanding with the notion that the only way their family farm could be successful was to grow and garner a greater market share. Throughout this process, JRS Country Acres has faced many marketplace challenges (i.e. banks are not lending, distributors are not willing to pay fair market price for products, price point for egg cartons continue to raise etc…), which are all too familiar within the agricultural industry. In addition, they faced agricultural and environmental challenges associated with increasing their flock size (i.e. figuring out how to deal with the potential detrimental impacts of too much manure, not enough land, highly erodible soils, run off, too high animal concentration, etc…)
Challenge breeds opportunity, and the Tholen family has opted to make lemonade out of the lemons they were dealt. In February 2013, the Tholen family realized that there are many other independently-owned family farmers who are caring for their chickens in the same humane manner (i.e. cage free, vegetarian-fed etc), but that they do not have the same access to the marketplace. After research, talks and discussions with other family farmers the Tholens decided that they would like to refocus their farm operation around grading, packaging and distribution for their farm business.
In March 2013, JRS Country Acres became USDA certified as an egg processing facility. By bringing the egg processing responsibilities to the family farm, the family farm operation was able to grow. In August 2013, JRS Country Acres became an FDA Registered Food Processing Facility. Over the last 2-3 years JRS Country Acres has worked hard to establish relationships with distributor networks, local chefs, cafés, restaurants and independently owned grocery stores in Wisconsin. Because JRS Country Acres has experienced success placing eggs in local, independently-owned grocery stores and restaurants, the Tholens have been able to “share the wealth” with their fellow farm suppliers.
JRS Country Acres has been working hard for the last decade to not only provide a quality product at a reasonable price, but to also operate their business in a manner that supports their values.