Kingsley Gobourne |Mt. Horeb, WI
We moved to New Glarus first, then to Belleville before settling in Blanchardville, where I graduated from high school. I had most of my childhood experiences in that little town and have a lot of fond memories. I also had some challenging times being the only African American family, not only in that town, but in that whole county. It was an experience. My wife and sons and I have lived in Mt. Horeb for the past few years.
Growing up in Jamaica we had to cultivate our own gardens and raise our own vegetables for the purpose of survival, because we didn’t have the means to purchase those things. So that is where my interest in growing food started. Our chickens laid the eggs we used, and then they became the chickens we ate later on in life. When we moved to America, my mom continued to have a garden. She grew whatever plants she could grow at this latitude— peppers, green onions, thyme and pumpkins and squashes that she would use for soups. Moving to America also allowed me to add animal husbandry to my list of food experiences. In Jamaica, we had goats and chickens, but in America, we were able to add pork and beef and I became familiar with small-scale animal farming. I grew up living in the communities that were really all farming communities, whether they were Swiss or German or Norwegian. They were all based in agriculture.
I received my bachelor’s at UW Madison and master’s degree at Edgewood College. I met my wife Melissa eleven years ago through mutual friends. Our first date was a game of HORSE (basketball) and dinner at David’s Jamaican restaurant. My wife won after outlawing dunking after I won the first letter. We have two sons.
At the start of the pandemic, I worked at UnityPoint Health. As I was not an essential employee I started working from home. I began hearing how Covid was affecting people that I know. It became evident in my circle of friends, the people that I grew up within Blanchardville, that the pandemic was starting to have a severe financial impact. At that point, the farmer’s markets were closed, which was a primary space for them to sell their products. My friends were discussing if they should just get out of farming, sell everything off or pivot to something else?
I had an idea. I knew UnityPoint had supported community-supported agriculture in the past for their employees. They were passionate about healthy eating. I approached some doctors at the hospital. My plan was to bring fresh meat products from my farmer friends to the doctors and nurses on staff. They would pull up in their vehicles and drop off food that the UnityPoint employees preordered from an online order form I created.
After a while, I realized that I wanted to invest in this social experiment as a business. My family and I were having a lot of fun—we were able to spend time together as we prepared food orders, visited farms, and discovered new products. My wife was working from home, and we not only had our kids home for the summer, but we had six other kids whose families we were helping out. Some of these kids are being raised by single moms that were working hard in the nursing field, trying to keep everyone else safe and taken care of during the pandemic. We had decided to step up and assist by watching some of those little ones, so their parents could continue to work. The kids would come with us to the farms where they could eat outdoors, visit with the animals and see a different way of life. It became a family thing, and the blooming meat business became just like another child. My youngest son’s name is Apollo and in Greek Mythology he has a twin, Artemis. That is how Artemis Provisions was born.
At first it was just our friends and colleagues who were purchasing these farm products from Artemis. Everyone that we worked with for Artemis Provisions was someone I graduated high school with or went to college with. Our goal was to develop this food delivery system since the supply chain had really been disrupted by the pandemic. While we were doing this process, we learned so much about ourselves and the communities and how we can have a larger role. I’ve always had a passion for food and cooking. It is this passion that connected me to my high school farmer friends who raise those animals and my college friends that are now chefs. It is a love of food that kept our friendships together for over 20 years.
At Artemis we work with the farmer, we purchase the animals and do all the meat processing. We work with a processing plant in Darlington. We sell everything that we produce—from beef, pork or chicken products as well as goat and lamb. Our biggest seller has been cheese. We partner with Bronco cheese and they’re out of Fayette. I used to coach their son in football. Everyone that I work with, we have these connections. These are all small-scale farmers. One of my favorite stories is about Gary Leonard and the Leonard family, they own a farm and are a large Angus beef producer. They have a calf named Lucky. When Lucky was born it was very close to winter and Lucky was very sickly. Gary realized quickly that the calf was not responding well and was probably not going to make it as it was too cold. He wondered, ‘How do you keep a calf warm?’ Gary brought Lucky into the house and his wife Lily ran a hot bath and sat in the bath with the calf until it warmed up and could start moving around. Not many of us would bring a calf into our home, much less our bathtub!
These individuals are family farmers first and foremost. Farming is their source of survival right now. They own one, maybe two farms so their production is not on a scale of commercial farming, where you see hundreds or thousands of cows in the field or big feedlots. When you come to one of our farms, you’re going to see a lot of green. You’re going to see rolling green hills, you’ll see animals freely moving about. Chickens are running around everywhere, they are not confined in a cage and the same thing for our cattle. It is nice actually seeing the care that goes into the food that you will someday eat.
With Artemis, we are able to bring people back to the roots of cooking. We use videos and share recipes, both from my Jamaican West Indian background, curry and jerk recipes, and I include my friends to share their food traditions. We also show our customers how to do things like break down whole chickens, which is a skill that is getting lost but can save you money. Growing up, watching that interplay between people and animals, I had this ability to see how important it is to just be able to raise your own animals and what a difference it was in taste. My oldest son always has ideas on things that we should be doing and offering to the community, so that’s how sharing the recipes started. This has been a family affair since the very beginning, and it has given me an opportunity to share some of my passions with my kids. I like to believe my kids are now meat connoisseurs and have a familiarity with how to cook meat properly.
As Artemis evolved, it was great to see how the community supported us in Mount Horeb. When we started, we didn’t really advertise in town because I was working at UnityPoint in Madison and that’s where our customer base was. So we overlooked Mount Horeb in the beginning until the local newspaper did an article on us saying, ‘Hey, do you know we have this business in town?’
Soon we had local residents start ordering from us and supporting us. They fell in love with Artemis, knowing that their dollars were going to other local farmers, other local businesses in their own community. The chamber of commerce, the economic development folks, they were all so supportive. We hope to open a brick-and-mortar business in Mt. Horeb. What’s unique is we’re going to try to make it as local and as Wisconsin as possible. We want to encourage producers from our community, from all over Wisconsin, including indigenous populations, from Black and Brown communities that are looking for a place to put their products, to contact us. We want to be an outlet for them. When people come and visit Mount Horeb, they can walk into Artemis and say the very best of Wisconsin and all of its variety of locally produced food is sold here. We are able to do this because our community supported us as we supported local food producers by connecting them to local eaters. I like to think that is the Wisconsin way.