A Story Land and Lineage
Photography Teresa Rafidi
On a cool, rainy day – about 15 minutes southeast of downtown Dallas – I’m guided into a gate that opens to a farm. Slowly driving in, I’m stopped by one of the farm owners, Jonathan Jackson. I was mentally prepared to roam the land on foot – boots and all – but Jonathan alerted me it wouldn’t be the safest option. “There’s a cow that just had a baby and is not going to let us anywhere near it,” he said. So we masked up, hopped in his SUV and drove cautiously around to tour the farm. The task of the day was to learn about Berkshire Farms, but I ended up getting a lesson on patience. The patience that is required to be in the farming industry and the patience that was instilled in brothers Jason and Jonathan Jackson to make their family business a success. And their grandfather was the prime factor.
“Our grandfather was the one that taught us about agriculture,” Jonathan said. “He was very patient, and that carried over to everything he did.” The Jackson brothers were raised in Ore City, an East Texas town located near the Lake of the Pines. “During spring break or in the summer we would visit and help him out on his farm with his pigs,” Jason said. “And it always kind of stuck with me. I always said if I ever had a chance, I’d give it a go.” So about ten years ago Jason started with three sows and a boar, rented a small plot and started breeding them.
When it came to the type of environment they would provide for the animals, free-range was a no-brainer. “That’s probably the most important part of what we do,” Jason said. “Some animals produce a higher quality in captivity, but pigs aren’t like that. Pigs actually produce their highest quality when they’re able to roam and have a life that’s closest to their natural habitat. They’re also going to get a lot more natural nutrients. They’re not going to be eating slop or pumped with antibiotics or anything like they would in a factory farm setting.”
As Berkshire Farms gained their following they were able to purchase their land and expand to add more animals to the mix. “As we grew we started to get a couple cows,” Jason said. “If you don’t have hundreds of cows, if you just have a couple, then they’re really friendly animals. But we’re not in the beef business. We have chickens and we just use them for the eggs.”
As their moniker suggests, Berkshire Farms specializes in all-natural pork products – from bacon to sausages, even boudin. They frequent local farmer’s markets, but the majority of their business comes from online orders. “Since the pandemic, online and delivery has really taken over,” Jason said.
Another change the pandemic has caused is people’s interest in growing their food, which is something Jonathan believes, is for the best. “No one is really raising or growing their own foods anymore so people are getting themselves in a situation where they’re dependent upon whatever’s available at the store,” he explained.
In addition to meats, Berkshire Farms Winery was birthed in 2017. The venture began as a hobby but soon turned into a lucrative extension of the brand. “We’ve been making wine for years and years and years,” Jonathan said. “We planted the vines, but we planted them just for fun. As time went on it became ‘well, why not make wine?’ So we started learning the process more and getting a little more in-depth and passionate.”
Aside from making sure the pigs didn’t meddle in the vines for a meal, the Jacksons quickly realized a higher level of patience – and collaboration – would be necessary to garner results in the wine business. “The wine takes a little longer because the vines take a little longer to mature,” Jonathan said. Berkshire Farms Winery is currently producing tempranillo and sangria from their estate grapes which pair perfectly with their pork. They are also sourcing grapes from out of state to produce even more pork pairing options including gewürztraminer and pinot noir.
The Berkshire train continues to move full speed ahead. Their next venture will be a bed and breakfast, located directly on the 20-acre farm. “Our goal of it all was to bring our wine and meat together,” Jason said. “I want people to come out to a place that’s far enough outside of Dallas that you can see the stars, but also close enough that you can see the skyline,” Jonathan said. I want people to be able to see how the animals are living, how the vegetables are growing and eat the grapes off the vine. We want to have an experience where people can pick the eggs that they want and have a farm to table breakfast.” Another unique element Jonathan plans to implement is creating their buildings out of shipping containers. “I wanted to have that uniqueness of the tiny home,” Jonathan said.
- Though construction for the bed and breakfast has already begun, you’ll have to wait until 2021 for the experience – patiently, of course. Find Berkshire Farms at Dallas Farmers Market, Keller Market, St. Michael’s Farmers Market, Lucas Farmers Market and Heath Market. Order online for delivery at facebook.com/BerkshireFarmsDallas and BerkshireFarmsWinery.com.