LOGANVILLE, Ga. — In 2017 Laura Jensen and her daughter were diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, leading them to grow more of their food and create Jensen Reserve. Five years later and now the woman-owned and operated butcher shop is helping keep its community access to local food found nowhere else in the world.
Jensen holds multiple titles as owner, farmer and butcher of Jensen Reserve. She is also one of the only American breeders of the of the Meishan pig, an animal originally from China and one of the oldest domesticated pig breeds in the world.
The Meishan pig is one of the bestsellers at Jensen Reserve and something that Jensen holds close to her heart.
"When I get to talk about my pigs, I absolutely love it. It's a unique aspect, as far as with my store. I do sell out of the shot as soon as it comes in. So there is a huge demand and that excites me," she said.
Jensen's introduction to the Meishan pig started when she bought a livestock guardian dog to protect her chickens on the farm. The hogs they were raising were dangerous.
"They were trying to eat us. They were eating our chickens," said Jensen.
In was in the search of a kinder and gentler pig that Jensen ran into the Meishan.
Rico Silvera sold the guardian to Jensen and owned the only two sets of Meishan pigs that had been held since the late 90s from research centers.
"The guy that had sold me the livestock guardian dog was posting these really weird, long-eared, wrinkly faced pigs when I said, Rico, tell me about your pigs," she said.
The American Meishan Breeders Association was created by Silvera and in March 2020 he gave Jensen a special call.
"Rico called and he said, I want to retire and I want you to have it all," said Jensen.
In the middle of the pandemic, Jensen moved a herd of Meishan pigs and AMBA to her farm in Loganville.
Jensen's farm was also one of the few businesses to flourish during the pandemic.
"The pandemic was quite a ride for us, and it wasn't the negative like it was for most. When the stores ran out of food, people came here and our business grew 800% in two weeks' time," said Jensen.
Jensen Reserve was able to provide local and fresh products such as top quality beef, pork, chicken and vegetables. A service they sometimes sold out of their barn hallway due to social distancing requirements.
"We would have a line of 10 to 15 people deep waiting at our walk up window to buy products from us," said Jensen.
Move towards mobile
In the fall of 2020, Jensen joined food delivery service Market Wagon. Now, almost a year later, Jensen Reserve delivers its products to 19 counties in Georgia, including metro Atlanta. Jensen is grateful for what she can do with the partnership.
"I realized I needed to be able to reach out and deliver to those customers that I couldn't reach in my store. And that's when Market Wagon came in," she said.
Jensen Reserve also offers its customers products from other farmers and vice versa. The butcher shop's products are available to the 15 farms they work with across the country. A level they would have not been able to reach without their community.
"I feel like we've been fortunate to have the following and the community support to do what we do and a lot of other farmers don't have that," she said.
Sharing products also means sharing animals.
"The small pigs, we could actually fly through Delta. And since we have that hub here in Atlanta, I fly pigs everywhere in the continental U.S.," said Jensen.
In addition to flying pigs all over the country, Jensen also teaches a masterclass where she teaches farmers how they can raise the Meishan pig successfully and promote it for their own businesses.
Laura's business now also includes charcuterie boards, a venture that she is proud of.
"I am the only female farmer doing the charcuterie work in the southeast. So I'm really proud of that," she said.
Jensen urges her customers to not forget about their local businesses; it's their support that keeps them in business.
"If you don't shop local, local can't be here. You know, at the end of the day, we're a business as well," she said.
In the future, she hopes to expand and build farm shops across the country and for more people to her shop.
"We would love the opportunity to show you who we are and the quality that we work with," said Jensen.