More Than Just a Pig Farm, Jake’s Country Meats Bridges Gap Between Food Production and Consumption
July 18, 2013 | Jenny Smiechowski
Jake’s Country Meats is more than just a pig farm—it is a family legacy. After six generations of raising pigs in the Michigan countryside, the Robinson family has developed a special connection to the land and remains dedicated to their mission of bridging the gap between food production and consumption.
According to the Robinson’s youngest daughter Renee, her father, Nate Robinson, has pig farming “in his blood” and he does a top-notch job of raising his Heritage breed pigs on pasture.
Renee, who came back to work on the farm after earning a degree in Marketing from Western Michigan University, takes part in all aspects of the family business.
“One day, I may spend all of my time behind the computer researching, emailing, talking to customers,” said Robinson. “The next day, I will be packing orders, answering phone calls, making deliveries, selling at a farmer’s markets, or helping move the animals from one field to the next.”
Renee Robinson believes that it is this collaborative spirit and the family’s willingness to take on diverse roles on the farm that make Jake’s Country Meats successful. They are also adept at fostering strong, personal connections with their customers through the medium of farmer’s markets, says Robinson.
The Robinson family practices sustainability in a broader sense by employing a forest stewardship plan. This plan is used to manage their land and provide a rich, natural environment for their pigs and other wildlife. “My father has always followed sustainable practices,” said Robinson, “He wants the land to be just as good if not better for the future generations.” As part of their plan, the Robinson’s rotate their animals amongst the fields in order to restore the nutrient content of the soil. The family is also committed to raising their pigs without antibiotics.
These and other sustainable practices have led the Robinsons to adopt the slogan, “Pork You Can Trust”, because they pride themselves in raising healthy pigs in a natural setting and because they have developed a strong and honest relationship with their clientele. “We are happy to give people the option between antibiotic-free meat and conventional farming,” said Robinson.
As a result, the farm has developed a solid reputation in the Midwest and delivers its products through multiple channels regionally. “We do several farmer’s markets, supply co-ops, distributors, home delivery systems, restaurants, and small stores. We are always looking for more ways to reach the people and hope to remain sustainable that way,” said Robinson.
The farm has, however, struggled to remain completely self-sustaining and the Robinsons have added a few other products to supplement their pasture raised pork in order to address this issue. In addition to their pork, Jake’s Country Meats now also offers wild-caught Great Lakes fish, Michigan maple syrup, and pasture-raised pheasants.
As outdoor pig farmers, the Robinsons have also faced challenges in regards to the weather and distribution. “It takes us longer to raise the animals, and costs more for labor as the farm is not as efficient as an indoor confinement operation would be,” said Robinson. According to Robinson, the farm has a limited labor force and they are constantly trying to balance the demands of efficiently raising and marketing their product.
Moving forward, the Robinsons are working to address these challenges and come out more efficient and economically-viable as a result of them. Their primary goals for the future are to become truly self-sustaining and sell every animal that they raise, to improve their farm for the next generation of farmers, and to create a unique food distribution network for people.
With generations of farming experience behind them, the Robinsons are agricultural veterans with simple but true wisdom for up and coming farmers; the first piece of wisdom being that farming is hard work and is not any type of get-rich-quick scheme. It is, however, a very rewarding way of life, says Robinson. “Farming is not easy, but we love what we do and are happy to be able to share it with others.” Robinson also advises new farmers to take notes from previous generations and to always take an innovative and creative approach to farming.