FORD COUNTY — When the pandemic arrived in 2020, Bob Miller, like different pork producers, adjusted to the modifications affecting each his present pig enterprise and his pork retail enterprise.
In many instances, the present went on for present pigs throughout the county, however some massive occasions together with state festivals had been canceled.
Show pigs are the primary enterprise for Miller, who farms along with his son Kirk. In 2006, Miller Farms Pork diversified by including the retail enterprise. Miller was glad that they had a longtime meat enterprise in 2020 when the native demand grew.
“It took three of us to man the operation and fill orders from March to May,” stated Miller, whose household began farming in Anchor Township, Ford County, in 1872 and can have a good time its sesquicentennial subsequent 12 months.
Miller didn’t have a giant drawback with processing in 2020 as a result of he usually has two to three hogs processed every week in Chenoa. During the pandemic when the provision chain was disrupted, they already had their house booked — and have it booked into 2022.
Building new markets
When a favourite farmers market, held on Wednesdays in Downs, closed in the course of the pandemic and didn’t reopen, Miller arrange store in his cellular trailer on the farm in Melvin to promote his pork cuts. Their trailer is loaded with 5 freezers of meat, with 4 extra freezers within the storage to meet demand for retail cuts.
Miller and his spouse Carla additionally discovered a brand new market promoting at Cedar Oak Farms in Paxton. It gives native and Illinois produce and meats and its personal line of connoisseur spices, flavored oils, jams, sauces, and honey in addition to some farmhouse décor.
He stated they match with that market. The means they increase their meat appeals to patrons. He explains that the farm rigorously adheres to Quality Assurance program necessities.
Miller Farm Pork additionally began promoting on-line in the course of the pandemic, with deliveries to Gibson City and Melvin, presumably increasing to Champaign. But the net enterprise didn’t take off as shortly as he anticipated, he stated.
Among the merchandise they promote on the market, from their trailer, and on-line is Miller Farm snack sticks which are available varied flavors. They have been promoting the favored pork sticks for a number of years, he stated. The jalapeño and barbecue and cheddar pork stix are additionally a “big hit” at native golf programs together with in Loda and Fairbury, he stated. A Rantoul golf course buys their pork chops and brats.
The Millers promote some pre-cooked packaged product ‘for those who don’t like to prepare dinner”, however that is restricted with rules concerned.
Miller stated he would work with a wholesaler, if the fitting one got here alongside.
The pandemic wasn’t the one hardship the Millers endured in recent times. In 2018, fireplace destroyed the farm shed together with his retail pork trailer, different gear and souvenir gadgets. He rebuilt.
Like many younger males, Miller acquired his begin in exhibiting pigs in 4-H. His favourite breed within the mid- to late-60s was Spotted Pigs — nonetheless the favourite of the fifth-generation farmer. They additionally increase Chester White, Berkshire and Poland China breeds.
Show pigs are nonetheless their principal focus. In September, Kirk was in Texas attending two breeding inventory present and gross sales. He shall be transferring on to a present in Oklahoma in October.
Sometimes their champion wins are nearer to dwelling, together with the 2021 Illinois State Fair Grand Champion Spotted boar and the reserve champion Spotted gilt.
Miller’s grandson began exhibiting when he was 8 years previous, carrying on the custom.
Miller has been energetic in his business and the associations which symbolize it. In 2018 he was inducted into the National Spotted Swine Hall of Fame as he retired from the National Spotted Board. He served on the Spotted Swine Registry and the Certified Pedigree Swine Board, was with the Illinois Purebred Swine Association as president for a number of years and was additionally the Illinois Purebred Representative on the Illinois Pork Producers Association Board for a number of years.
He and his household additionally take part with the Ford-Iroquois Pork Producers, which give butterfly chops for occasions together with soccer video games and seed conferences. The group helps promote pork, he stated.
In addition to the thriving pork enterprise, rising crops is a part of the farm’s range. The earlier planted corn and soybeans are wanting fairly good at this level, he stated in mid-September when a busy harvest season was simply starting.
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