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Wallace H. Jerome (22 March 1909 – 21 June 2006) was considered an innovator in the domestic turkey industry. When the idea of "mega" farms was seen as inefficient and not possible, Jerome saw it as a way and technology of the future. Jerome started off with very little as a child and a young man. In 1922, after placing 14 turkey eggs under two brood hens, which hatched only one tom turkey, he had the beginning of Jerome Foods, Incorporated, of Barron, Wisconsin. Jerome Foods became The Turkey Store Company. The brand became "The Turkey Store". The Turkey Store Company was sold to Hormel Foods and was merged with Jennie-O Foods, to form what is known today as the "Jennie-O Turkey Store" company and products.
Early life, education and family
Born in Spooner, Wisconsin, Jerome learned to work on the farm at an early age, and his belongings were few. Because farming was a full-time job, Jerome attended school intermittently, and graduated from Barron High School in 1928.
He then entered the Wisconsin Agricultural Short Course in 1930 in Madison, and began to work for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture as a poultry and egg inspector. In 1935, he attended the University of Minnesota - St. Paul, where he joined Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity - Lambda Chapter. He continued his education at the University of Wisconsin - Madison because he wanted to receive his degree from his home state, and also continued his involvement in Alpha Gamma Rho at Iota Chapter. He received his degree in Poultry Husbandry.
Marion Estenson was a bright, attractive, and independent-minded teacher who caught Jerome's eye. They were married in 1943.
Jerome has a long history of being recognized in the agriculture industry. In 1929, he was named the Outstanding 4H Poultry Club Member for Wisconsin. He was honored with a Grand Champion award for his bronze yearling at the 1933 All-American Turkey Show in Grand Forks, N.D. He was always active with youth and 4H and was honored with an Honorary State Farmer Award from the Wisconsin Vocational Agriculture FFA Program in 1973.
The poultry industry awarded him for his success as well. Wallace received the Distinguished Service Award from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Jerome also earned a Distinguished Agriculturist Award from UW–River Falls in 1976. He retired in 1980 from his company when his son took over as Chairman of the Board, but continued to stay involved in the turkey industry. He also remained an active member of the FFA Alumni Association and Alpha Gamma Rho Alumni Association.
Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity awarded him Man of the Year in 1988. In 1992, he was inducted into the American Poultry Historical Society Hall of Fame, and Wisconsin Meat Industry Hall of Fame in 1996. Jerome was honored with a National Turkey Federation Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. He also received a patent for a Poultry Coop Unloader on May 20, 2003.
Jerome created the Wallace H. Jerome Foundation in 1964. Wallace and his wife gave land and financial support to help with numerous community projects in the Barron, Wisconsin area. After Marion's death in 1988, Jerome put up $1,000,000 and asked the community to raise money to match that number to build the Barron Area Community Center in 1989. The Foundation has given over $4.7 million since its inception.
Jerome opposed the habit of smoking before the Surgeon General had issued any warnings. Wallace was a member of both Wisconsin Coalition on Smoking and Health and Wisconsin Lung Association, serving on the board of directors of the latter.