At J.R. Hall Farms in Rigby, Idaho, there’s always room for a few more — a few more cows, a few more hours of work, a few more family members who want to be part of the business.
“Our growth has been a result of supporting more families,” says Jeremy Hall, who along with his brother, Ty, father, Jerry, and uncle, Ricki, operates J.R. Hall Farms. “I don’t think it was ever our goal to milk 1,000 cows, but when I wanted to join, we got a few more. Then, another family wants to come in, so we need a few more cows. I think anyone in the family who wants to — my kids or brothers or sisters or cousins — anyone who has a desire to make a living here and work hard should have that opportunity.”
Jeremy and Ty’s grandfather, Gordon, started the farm in 1953, milking about 10 cows and farming potatoes with his brother and father. While the family farmed together, they milked cows separately.
“I don’t think they could see quite eye to eye on how to run the dairy, so my dad moved down the road to start his own dairy,” Jerry says.
Jerry and Ricki joined their father and grew the dairy little by little until 1978.
“By then, our potato equipment and dairy equipment was shot,” Jerry says. “We had to make the decision and we felt we couldn’t be diversified and have potatoes and cows. In fact, we spent most of the potato money to buy hay for the cows, and we decided if we planted the potato ground into hay and raised our feed, then we’d develop the dairy more.”
The family remodeled the flat milking parlor they were using into a double-six herringbone. They did the remodeling and construction work themselves.
“The double-six was wonderful,” Jerry says. “We thought we had gone to heaven. It was better than buying a new tractor because you could stand up and milk the cows.”
In 1983,Gordon went on a mission for his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He gave Jerry and Ricki a week-and-a-half notice that he would be gone for one and a half years and they were in charge of the dairy.
“He just decided to go and he was gone,” Jerry says. “It was almost like a death. I think all the neighbors looked at him and said ‘Oh, those boys are going to lose the farm.’ There was quite a bit of pressure on us. We worked really hard and we saw that we could make it after the first year.”
Today, Jerry focuses mostly on the books and finances of the 1,100-cow dairy. Ricki handles equipment purchases and works with the cows. Ty oversees the day-to-day work on the dairy and Jeremy focuses on the farming operation, which consists of 1,600 acres of hay, barley and corn. The family works together to make decisions as Ty and Jeremy gradually buy more into the partnership.
“We all want the dairy to succeed,” Ty says. “I think we all want everyone to be happy and, if possible, I think we want everyone to meet their individual needs while making the dairy better overall. It is a good feeling to work with people like that who care about you and they are not making decisions based only on their own interests.”
As the dairy has grown, the family also grew their milking parlor, adding a few stalls at a time while they added cows. Finally, in 2008, they had maxed out their space. They explored several options to remodel their existing facility before finally deciding to build a new parlor from the ground up.