From its humble beginning roughly 25 years ago when owners Gerald Schmidt and Jim Ensz began feeding a small number of pigs, Plymouth Ag Group has continued to expand its livestock business in Jefferson County.
“Jim and I started feeding pigs together in the mid ‘90s, and we always had something in common,” said Schmidt. “Since then, we’ve been putting most things into one entity. We’ve just kept growing and developing over the years.”
Ensz explained that they have a strong relationship with Triumph Foods, which has caused an increase in the demand for pigs. Because of that increased demand, they have developed two new facilities in Jefferson County, one northeast of Jansen, and another southwest of Harbine, to expand the number of pigs produced every year.
The new facility near Jansen houses 4,800 pigs, and has created new jobs in the county. Shane Meyer, supervisor for Plymouth Ag Group explained that there will be a new group of pigs every six months. He is happy to see the facility up and running.
“I’m very excited,” Meyer said. “I think we’ve built one of the best barns you can build by today’s standards. We didn’t cut any corners. I think we are a benefit to Jefferson County and to our community. I think if people see the facility, they will see that we have something that’s good out here.”
Meyer explained that he plans to forge connections with other local businesses and with the schools to help grow the county and to give the next generation of livestock producers a hands-on learning experience. Ensz believes that the new facility shows Plymouth Ag Group’s dedication to Jefferson County.
“This barn is a culmination of a lot of ideas,” Ensz said. “We did a lot of research on what worked for people, what didn’t work for people. We combined those thinks, and we think we have made the most people friendly and animal friendly facility that is out there. That’s why we’re pretty excited. We already have the south site (near Harbine) populated, and I think it’s doing pretty good.”
Meyer explained that they have cameras all around the facility that he and others can live-stream right to their phones to monitor the facility, and to show people what the facility is like.
“We are being very proactive,” said Meyer. “Down the road, I think you could walk into a grocery store and see a live feed of a facility like this so people know where their food’s coming from. Because of biosecurity, we can’t let people in to see the pigs every day, and that’s just to protect the health of the pigs. With the cameras, it enables us to show people what we have at our facilities. Bruce (Livingston, Owner of Livingston Enterprises, Inc.) has been an inspiration for that because he’s been doing that for a while. I think it’s the wave of the future.”
Meyer believes that sustainability is an important part of the industry. He stated that Plymouth Ag Group maintains sustainable practices that fit within the community.
“We have grain farmers,” Meyer said. “They raise grain for the pigs, that are turned into meat. From the pigs we get manure for fertilizer to help grow the crops. It’s an entire cycle that’s self-sustaining, and that’s what I’m excited about. We feel like we’re doing the right thing, and we’re willing to open our doors to anybody who wants to see what we have going on.”