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UW grad helped establish Thanksgiving turkey tradition

Kaitlyn Riley

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Wallace Jerome (Photo Credit: Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association)

As family and friends gathered on Thursday around a table filled with potatoes, pies, and of course, turkey, the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association recognized a graduate who helped make the meal possible.

Wallace Jerome of Spooner loved to watch turkey eggs hatch and had a flock of 200 birds by the time he completed high school in 1928, according to the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association.

Jerome studied at the UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course and became an egg inspector for the Wisconsin 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, Wisc. 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.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in both radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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