Everything Begins with Family at Tosh Farms

Story by Bud Grimes | Photos by AgCreate, Nathan Morgan & Dylan Ingram

The Tosh Family Classroom was dedicated in May 2022 in historic Brehm Hall to honor Jimmy Tosh (’72) and his family for longtime generosity to UT Martin and support for the university. At the dedication, Jimmy Tosh told the audience, “Going to college really teaches you to think and how to deal with people.” 

Jimmy learned those lessons well and returned home after earning his degree to turn Tosh Farms, Tosh Pork and the Bacon by Gosh brand into the largest pork producer in Tennessee and the 30th-largest in the U.S. A family farm that traces its beginnings to 1913 has grown into a company that produces enough pork to feed more than half of Tennessee’s residents annually and provides jobs to more than 550 employees.

From small farm to family business

Jimmy was raised in Henry, Tennessee, where his parents owned a feed mill, restaurant and a bar. The family also raised a few cattle and once ran a dairy operation that was eventually closed because of his father’s health issues. 

He participated in high school FFA, and his interest in farming brought him to UT Martin in 1967 to study agriculture with a focus on animal science and agricultural business.

An aerial photo shows the scale of the Tosh Farms operation.

Although he considered teaching school, he never completed student-teaching and spent his college years driving to and from campus and classes to work on the family farm and earn his degree. His mother died tragically in a car accident in 1970 near the Tosh Farms complex, and his father died two years later from prostate cancer. 

Jimmy’s after-college goals were to grow 1,000 acres of row crops and sell 2,000 hogs annually, and he accomplished this with minimal help. 

Those initial goals are replaced today by Tosh Farms that includes 17,000 acres of farmed land, of which 11,000 acres is company-owned. The other land is leased from more than 125 landowners in Henry, Carroll and Weakley counties. Tosh Pork cares for approximately 38,000 sows that produce more than 1 million market hogs annually. 

The company website notes that Bacon by Gosh manages the company’s substantial transportation needs by deploying 99 semis, 85 trailers and 118 automobiles to move feed, deliver pigs to market and transport people.

Jimmy Tosh talks with Hector Rivera Martinez as he passes through the receiving pits.

Eighteen mechanics and three fuel techs maintain the fleet while Bacon by Gosh also oversees the critical work of biosecurity through cleaning, disinfecting and drying company trailers in between animal deliveries. 

“Anytime you’re dealing with animal agriculture, you’ve got certain disease issues to deal with,” he said, so attention to sanitation is critical.

The company’s major growth and biggest challenges came after 1994, when the company grew from five employees to 550 in 2024. 

“Well, the swine industry was changing, and I knew I either had to change or I had to get out, and I always liked to raise pigs,” Jimmy said. “And I decided to get in and just hadn’t had enough sense to quit.” 

As things have worked out over time, his decision to grow the business has paid dividends for the Tosh family, company employees and consumers who benefit from Tosh Farms’ high-quality pork.

Maintaining a family experience

Jimmy and his wife, Alonna, have two sons, Jamey (’02) and Jonathan, both Tosh Farms business partners. Jamey, the oldest, is a UT Martin agriculture graduate who completed the WestStar Leadership Program in 2020 while Jonathan earned his agriculture degree at Murray State University. Both Jamey and Jonathan are licensed pilots, which supports an important transportation option for the company that maintains a company jet. 

Tosh Farms’ main complex – sometimes called Tosh-Vegas because of its nighttime city-like skyline, includes business offices, a transportation center, large grain silos and bins bordered by U.S. Highway 79 on the east and surrounded by agricultural land.

As might be expected, the complex is a hub of activity during the day. Parts of the operation run 24/7 year-round, which includes the all-important work of feeding the animals. Although Jimmy said he’s not involved daily in the hog operation as he once was, he remains fully engaged in business decisions.

Workers from the Martin Sow Farm pose for a group photo.

“It just really depends (as to the level of his dad’s involvement),” Jamey said. “But he’s still the owner and the leader of the company, so anything major, we’ll still go through him.”

While Jimmy largely works with the animal side of the business, Jamey’s focus is on grain operations and agricultural markets “because the markets play a big role in profitability.” 

Jonathan works with company trucking and transportation, so the varied roles contribute to a positive and cooperative work environment. 

“We meet with all our managers once a week, and that keeps everybody informed. … But we’re basically a team, and we have to work as a team and let everybody else know what’s going on,” Jamey said.

Both Jimmy and Jamey credit Tosh Farms’ people for the company’s success. 

“To run any good business, you’ve got to have great people, and I’ve got some great people that work for me,” Jimmy said. “Anybody who goes in business, I assure you, you need to get a good team around you.” 

In addition to hiring good people, Jamey said trusting team members to do their jobs is crucial. 

“Keeping a family business and communication has always been a struggle and always will be with any business, but I think we have a very good communication of our operations. 

“We try to keep a family experience, but really the employees that surround us, they’re the ones that make us successful,” Jamey said.

Staying competitive

Each employee matters to a business that sold over 1 million hogs in 2023. The company contracts with JBS Pork in Louisville to purchase its hogs, which in turn sells its pork products to retailers, including Costco and Kroger. “If you buy a pork loin in Costco, it’s about a 40% chance it’ll come from us in the Southeast region or upper Mid-South region,” Jimmy said.

Inside of a Tosh Farms hog barn.

Just under 30 trucks travel daily delivering hogs to Louisville, and the business pays a management fee to a network of 80 contract growers across West Tennessee and Western Kentucky to build barns and raise the pigs furnished by Tosh Farms. He likened the business model to that of the poultry industry. 

“Profitability has been a problem in the last year, but it’s ag and you’re not going to make money every year,” he said. “Last year was a very tough year – in fact, the toughest year I have known in the industry. … Agriculture is one of the hardest businesses to manage there because you got so many variables in agriculture, and lots of them are out of your control: prices, weather, insects … You got to manage through them the best you can.” 

Managing costs is critical for any successful business, but the cost structure in the pork industry means that every dollar matters. 

To that end, Tosh Farms builds its own barns and produces the concrete needed for company construction projects. In addition to growing and producing grain in the company’s farming operation, food-industry byproducts are purchased in large quantities to supplement grain that’s fed to the hogs. 

In a huge storage facility that measures about two football fields long and one football field wide, large bags of cereal, crates of baked goods, pet food and even snack foods are stacked and stored until the items are blended into feed. It’s an efficient use of human and animal food products that would otherwise be discarded. 

“We got started in ’07 with pet food and we’re still using quite a bit of pet food,” Jimmy said. “In fact, (we) actually used more pet food last year than we did corn. … You would be absolutely amazed the amount of waste in the food industry.”

Giving back

While the Tosh family is known for its business success, the family is also known for its generosity. During the 2022 Tosh Family Classroom dedication, College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences Dean Todd Winters told those attending the event that the family’s generosity ranged from feeding people to offering second starts to persons who have struggled in life. Examples of company partnerships include Second Harvest Food Bank and Hope Ministries, a Henry County drug rehabilitation facility.

“They’re known for giving people chances that have maybe made some mistakes in their life and will give them a job if they’re willing to work,” Winters said. “There’s not a lot of people like that around.” 

Jimmy Tosh is pictured in front of the Tosh Farms sign

He then told how Tosh and his family have supported the university’s agricultural programs, including student research and travel to the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Agricultural Sciences.

To that end, the Tosh family has donated $50,000 in matching funds for the College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences to Captain’s Challenge, the university’s annual one-day fundraiser held each April. Individual gifts to the college are matched by the Tosh gift as long as the funds last, and UT Martin students are the ultimate beneficiaries. 

Tosh Farms also supports graduates by providing employment opportunities following graduation. Dr. Seth Krantz (’06) is the head veterinarian and holds UT Martin and UT College of Veterinary Medicine degrees. The university’s popular veterinary health technology program has provided employees necessary for maintaining animal health. Jamey estimates that as many as 20% of the company’s senior staff hold UT Martin degrees. 

Securing the future

Jimmy Tosh is the architect of Tosh Farms’ success, and he intends for the company to thrive after he’s no longer involved. Planning for succession is important to the family and the employees who depend on the business to make a living. 

“The biggest thing about business, you’ve got to know where you’re at and where you want to go,” he said. 

A field of canola surrounds one of the Tosh Farms hog barns.

With the future in mind, Jimmy is updating estate plans that already exist to assure what he describes as “a more formalized succession planning.”

Jamey agrees with the importance of planning for the company’s future. “I guess probably what keeps me up more than anything is making sure that the family tradition, the family farm, keeps going if I’m not here one day,” he said.

Family members have much to consider given the size of the enterprise, but nothing is left to chance to secure the company’s future. 

It began in a classroom

The late animal science professor Dr. N.W. “Doc” Robinson, whose name is memorialized at the university’s Ned McWherter Agriculture Complex arena, was one of Jimmy Tosh’s favorite UT Martin faculty members. Robinson nicknamed him “Tosh by Gosh” in class, which later inspired Jimmy to create today’s company name “Bacon by Gosh.” 

There’s little doubt that pursuing a college degree teaches a person how to think. If you listen closely in class, a favorite teacher just might give you an idea that helped to brand the largest pork production business in Tennessee. 

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