The original Bacon family farmstead became a century farm 50-plus years ago, in 1969. Settled under the Homestead Act in the 1860’s, Bacon Farms is one of the oldest grain and vegetable operations in Wisconsin.
“Bacon Farms, Inc., as it is now, was created by my grandfather, Merle, in the early 1970’s,” Mark Bacon, vice president of the family business, says.
“Over the decades, the business has seen many changes in personnel and crop focus, from dairy to beef and cash crops, to vegetables, and back to what it is today—a grain and vegetable farm,” Mark relates.
Located in Hancock, Wisconsin, it was a dairy farm through the late 1960’s. With one of the first wells in Waushara County drilled on the property in the 1950’s, once irrigation was added, the farm started growing potatoes and vegetables, eventually discontinuing dairy.
“We also raised beef and grain crops through the 1980’s,” Mark notes. “The late ’80s were very dry years that saw canning companies actively contracting additional acres in the Wisconsin Central Sands area, and we adapted to only raising potatoes, contract vegetables, and cucumbers.”
“My father, Larry, and his brother, Randy, were the owners of the business as I was growing up after the passing of my grandfather, up until 1998 when they both retired,” he explains.
Mark and his brother, Jim, took over ownership and control of the business, and today, their younger brother, Jeff, and brother-in-law, Jason Welty, are also involved on the farm.
Bacon Farms has grown over the years and has changed focus a couple of times.
“In 2010, we made the decision to discontinue potato operations,” Mark says, “and now focus primarily on grain and vegetables, currently growing field corn, soybeans, wheat, snap beans, peas, and kidney beans.”
“We also have a close working relationship with a couple neighboring farms that add rotations of potatoes and cucumbers to the business,” he relates.
Bacon says this history makes him proud as a fourth-generation family farmer. They currently operate roughly 6,000 acres.
“We have always prided ourselves in doing the best job we can to produce the highest quality products while taking great care of the ground. We are also the labor force for the business. We each have our strengths, but ultimately, if there is a job to be done, it is one of the family members likely doing the work.”
According to Bacon, the most significant changes and/or advancements that he has seen have been related to equipment.
“When I started running a planter, it was a long day of staring over the hood at a marker track. Today, it’s all guidance, mapping, and high-tech rate controllers. I expect some time in my life I will see an autonomous tractor on our farm, but likely during my son’s or grandchildren’s era. Even the technology inside harvest equipment has gotten immeasurably greater in 20 years.”
Bacon adds that while the future is hard to predict, he’s hopeful “that the next generation of family members will have the same opportunities afforded me — to be able to come aboard the business and continue to grow and prosper. I believe the things we are currently doing, between working with neighbors on rotation, being proactive on technology, and having a sustainable approach to the business will allow us to leave a legacy for the next generation.”