While contract farming isn’t anything new to the agricultural community, it’s gaining more local popularity. However, for a local family, this is the route they have chosen for several years. The Jackson’s have been doing contract farming since 1999 to be exact.
What exactly is contract farming? Simply put, Heimeral Farms contracts with Jackson Farms to raise hogs from 7 weeks of age to maturity. Heimeral pays the Jacksons to raise their hogs. Heimeral provides the animals, feed, and medicines, and then collects the hogs when they are fully grown and ready to slaughter. Jackson Farms owns the property and barns and also employs farmhands. Raising two cycles of hogs, Jackson’s see almost 15,000 heads a year. One cycle of hogs is just 5-6 short months.
What started out as a dairy until 1984, John & Mary Ruth Jackson raised their family to see the value in agriculture. For the next 10 years, the family would raise veal. When the veal demand dropped, the farm sold off its animals and took a brief hiatus. In 1998 when John was looking for his next adventure, a company approached him about contract farming. In 1999 the first hogs made their appearance on the 200-acre farm. Now, John & Mary Ruth’s son Sam, and grandson Brad, along with his son Landen, run the 7,000-head hog farm just outside of DeGraff.
Their three barns are set up with high-tech capabilities. Automatic feeders/waters and temperature controls are all computerized. The hogs have access to constant water and are fed every hour on the hour, allowing them to feed as needed.
Hogs can be finicky animals and require a lot of maintenance and do not have the ability to sweat. Especially in the summer months, it is imperative to keep their body temperatures cool. This is achieved by fans, ventilation, and misting systems, which are all controlled by sensors throughout the barns. The Jackson’s take pride in their humane practices with their hogs, making sure they are comfortable and healthy at all times.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture inspects the Jackson farm twice a year to make sure they are complying with laws, especially the proper disposal of manure. That’s another important aspect of the farm and raising over 15,000 hogs, they produce a lot of it. The Jackson’s contract with other local farmers to spread their manure as fertilizer for their fields. However, they have strict guidelines set by the state that they follow. The farmer provides them with soil samples from the fields where they will be applying the manure. This information tells the Jackson’s how much they are able to apply, depending on the contents of the sample. The state sets parameters, and you can not exceed them. If the Jackson’s manure would set those levels out of balance they would be held liable and would see potential fines and other consequences.
Raising hogs is not for the faint of heart. The Jackson’s each put in 60-plus hours a week, and employ one full-time and two part-time employees. The work is hard, but they wouldn’t have it any other way. Being raised on the farm, Brad says he is privileged to be able to instill the same values in his own children, as he had growing up, and flexibility is great, as he has younger children. Brad said, “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.”
One thing that the Jackson’s would like you to know is that they are not a factory that doesn’t care for its animals. Each hog is cared for and inspected often. They are in the barns constantly making sure that should issues arise with the health of a hog, it is addressed immediately.
Stay tuned for more stories just like this, telling the story of your friends and neighbors, right here in Logan County. Where I am Cultivating Community, one story at a time. Next up: Henry Farms.