Scott Thellman, a first generation farmer, tells the story of how he started Juniper Hills Farms in 2006. His business savvy, interest in distribution systems, and passion for agriculture have meshed in this new enterprise.
It all began when Scott’s family moved to the country north of Lawrence in 1999. He began helping the man who rented the property with production work.
Even in high school, Thellman began to purchase equipment to cut and bale hay. Loving the work and realizing that he could make money, he bought more and better equipment with a youth loan he received from a USDA program. Even before graduating from high school, he expanded his operation to include more hay land and specialty crops.
After trying out several different university ag programs, Thellman graduated in 2014 with a degree in agri-business, economics, agronomy, and leadership. About that time, he used what he was learning about food aggregation and local food distribution systems to leverage his investment in a large refrigerated truck by distributing for other producers as well as for himself.
Growth was steady until COVID hit. At that point, Spellman adapted to the closing of his traditional markets in restaurants, schools, and grocery stores by creating Sunflower Provisions, doing pick up and deliver in and around Lawrence and expanding to serve more producers.
What lies ahead? For one thing, Juniper Hills will soon establish an industrial kitchen in North Lawrence. Spellman envisions producing salsa and marinara sauce using vegetables that might otherwise be wasted. He would also like to add to production of food-grade corn and soybeans.
Spellman will continue to experiment with ways to vertically integrate his business, a slow and steady growth pattern he believes is destined for success.