I was born in Jamaica. When I was in third grade my family and I immigrated to Wisconsin. That was really the start of everything for me.
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 in that town. It was an experience. My wife and sons and I have lived in Mount 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 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 degree at UW-Madison and master’s degree at Edgewood College. I met my wife, Melissa, 11 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 with in Blanchardville, that the pandemic was starting to have a severe financial impact. At that point, the farmers’ 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 pre-ordered from an online 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 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 blossoming 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.
Community is truly what we’ve found here. My wife grew up in Verona, just 10 miles away. Living in Mount Horeb is a very familiar space for us because we know a lot of people who still live here. That has helped open doors for us.
At first it was just our friends and colleagues who were purchasing these farm products from Artemis. 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 Brunkow Cheese and they’re out of Fayette. I used to coach their son in football.
These individuals are family farmers. 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. 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. 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.
We hope to open a brick-and-mortar business in Mount 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 see 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.
This is an edited version of Kingsley Gobourne’s story, which was produced by Hedi LaMarr Rudd for Wisconsin Humanities’ storytelling project, Love Wisconsin. You can find the full story at lovewi.com/stories.