In less then two weeks some people will be carving a big ol’ turkey in observance of Thanksgiving. Wallace Jerome, a University of Wisconsin alum, helped make that tradition possible.
As a native of Spooner, Wisconsin, Jerome loved to watch turkey eggs hatch. Between his 14th birthday and the time he completed high school in 1928, he had hatched a flock of 200 birds.
Jerome came to Madison to take the UW’s Farm and Industry Short Course, and after completing it in 1928, he became an egg inspector for the state’s Department of Agriculture. He returned to college in the late 1930s and graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in poultry husbandry in 1941. At the height of the Great Depression, Jerome purchased an abandoned pea cannery in Barron, Wisconsin, and turned it into a processing plant for turkey meat.
After improving turkey-farming systems to handle large numbers of birds, he launched Jerome Foods, which later became the Turkey Store and ultimately merged with Hormel Foods to become today’s Jennie-O Turkey Store. Jerome not only put Thanksgiving turkeys on the table across the country, but he also created innovations such as GobbleStix, steaks, tenderloins, sausages, burgers, and ham — all made of turkey.
Wallace Jerome and many other amazing UW–Madison alumni are featured at allwaysforward.org/wi/.