FORT ATKINSON – Rounding the sweeping curve on Highway 106 a mile southwest of Fort Atkinson, it’s hard to miss. There, on the banks of the Rock River, stands the iconic yellow barn, still steeped in history and serving as a testing ground for innovative farm equipment.
The Jones family of Fort Atkinson, owners of the 133-year-old Jones Dairy Farm sausage and meat processing business, invited the public to tour the 100-year-old historic yellow barn located on the farm.
Local attendees welcomed the opportunity to tour the historic farm, which operated as a dairy farm until the mid-1980s. Located next to a wooded area, the farm is not easily seen from Highway 26 and the farm has 1.4 miles of river frontage and 174 acres of farmland.
Despite operating separately from the internationally known meat business, Jones Dairy Farm chairman and CEO Phillip Jones says the two-story, Gothic-roofed structure is affectionately known in the community as the “yellow barn.” the phrase “dairy farm” in the company name.
The original founders
The farm was originally settled by Milo and Sally Jones in the 1830s and farmed until part of it was sold to the James family in 1922 when a dairy was built.
Milo Jones was a government surveyor and started dairy farming after receiving a 331-acre land grant. He believed in diversified farming, relying mainly on livestock and commercial dairy farming. He built not only a stable and a chicken coop, but also a brick factory, a tannery and a hotel.
By the 1850s, he had grown his herd to 25 head, and in 1857 the Wisconsin Farmer and Northwest Cultivator published his recipes for butter and cheese. In 1870, he co-founded the Jefferson County Dairymen’s Association.
Born on a farm near Wales, Wisconsin, WD James worked in the farm’s small blacksmith shop where he perfected his craft. He was a prolific inventor and built an adjustable cowshed with a swivel stand. The stand allowed the cow to turn its head and aligned it with the manure plug for greater sanitation.
In 1909, he set up a workshop in Fort Atkinson with several local partners, and the company continued to grow as James found ways to make farming easier or more efficient. In 1912, the company changed its name to the James Manufacturing Company, and the slogan “James Way” became synonymous with quality farm equipment.
James bought 80 acres of land from the Jones family around 1919 to start a dairy farm to put his ideas into a real farming situation. The 122-by-36-foot structure was built in 1922 and housed innovative farm equipment and practices. The inventions will not only improve cleanliness, but also make milk production easier and more efficient for farmers.
In a brochure describing his products, James emphasized that while his personal farm was not meant to be a model, it was a place where he “tried to do some things that he believed were valuable.”
According to “The James Way,” published in 1918, a barn that is properly designed and built down to every little detail is a constant source of income.
The state-of-the-art yellow dairy barn was built with two internal silos and one external silo and was fitted with the latest James Way ventilation, support posts, posts, stall fittings, drinkers, feeders and manure removal. systems.
Four men, including his father, worked on the farm and delivered fresh Guernsey milk and eggs to homes in Fort Atkinson. James developed a system to check the quality of the milk produced on the farm and he marketed his milk under the KLEEN MILK brand.”
According to the brochure, the barn is painted yellow “in keeping with the Guernsey cows and the light yellow color of the milk”.
As visitors toured the facilities, Merrilee Lee, director of the Hoards History Museum, described the unique Jamesway inventions inside the cave structure, including the warehouse’s unique ventilation system that kept the stable comfortable, clean and odor-free with James’ notes.
Other advanced features – at the time – included cow comfort innovations such as the Jamesway rotary barn, cow feeding, grass cutting feed systems and pig handling.
“The James Way” is still synonymous with innovative dairy farm equipment.
An evolving business model
After WD James died in 1948, the farm, including the distinctive barn, was sold to the Jones family, who operated the property as a dairy farm and piggery operation until 1985.
After they bought the farm back, some of the land was used to expand the production area for the Jones family’s sausage and smoked meat business. The cow herd was converted to registered Holsteins from Guernsey in 1974 due to market pressure for low fat milk. Additions were made to the 1922 structure to accommodate a larger herd, which grew to 140 by 1982.
In 1983, farm managers and 100 volunteers hosted the largest June Dairy Breakfast in the state, attracting 3,225 people. Two years later, the dairy was discontinued so that the family could focus on the growing meat business.
“This celebration is the perfect opportunity to showcase our beloved yellow barn to the local community, remember its historical importance to the dairy industry, and support the next generation of agricultural leaders in our region,” says Jones.
Proceeds from the centennial celebration will be used for scholarships for local agricultural students.
Local residents and history buffs helped educate visitors from bygone eras, including Dan Hess of Old World Wisconsin, who fired up a forge and demonstrated his blacksmithing skills. Lydia Fink, along with others from the nearby Lundy Farm, transported a variety of dairy cattle that happily occupied the stalls still standing in the barn.
Others like Phil Cohen, Bob and Tom Zelenski shared their love of vintage milking equipment, while model farm enthusiasts John Klettke and Cal Anderson displayed model farms from the early 1900s to the present.
At the event was Taylor Schaefer at Alice Dairyland. “Although the Jones Yellow Barn was only a working dairy until the mid-1980s, Jones Dairy Farm continues to focus on natural sausage, cured pork and more while maintaining control of the land,” he said. Alice Dairyland Taylor Schaefer, who enjoyed talking with community members, meeting the Jones Family and learning more about the company’s rich history that began in 1889.