Snapshots: A Farming Entrepreneur

Augustana alumnus John Peterson

Meet 2016 Horizon Award recipient John Peterson '03, owner and general manager for Ferndale Market in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. 

John Peterson’s workday is anything but 9-to-5 as the owner of Ferndale Market — named after the farm’s founders and Peterson’s grandparents, Fern and Dale. Ferndale Market is a multi-generational company that raises free-range turkeys in Cannon Falls, Minnesota — about 30 minutes south of the Twin Cities.

Peterson helped open their on-farm store in 2008 and today partners with more than 70 other local food producers to connect shoppers with local producers. The store is open seven days a week and Ferndale products are available in several restaurants and retail stores throughout the region, including Sioux Falls.

"There’s no greater affirmation of our work than knowing we are literally providing nourishment for people around us."

 John Peterson '03

Peterson graduated in 2003 with a major in communication studies/business and a minor in history.

Peterson is the recipient of the 2016 Horizon Award, an honor recognizing young alumni who have quickly demonstrated outstanding vocational achievement and provided faithful service to their community and/or church.

Despite the fact that he didn’t take any classes in agriculture — or meat science or operations, all areas he taps into daily — Peterson credits Augustana for giving him the skills to be a lifelong learner and for instilling a curiosity to understand how and why things work, he said.

“I think I was most struck by the classes I almost unexpectedly found fascinating,” he said. “It really is the beauty of the liberal arts, but I was somehow stretched most by the classes outside of my major because they pushed me to expand the way I saw the world and my place in it.”

He enjoys working with his father, Dick, in the family business. They raise turkeys free-range during the warmer months. All Ferndale turkeys are processed naturally with the practices remaining much the same as when Peterson’s grandfather started the farm in 1939.

“It’s been an absolute joy to launch and sustain a brand that’s built around my family’s farm and distinctive farming practices,” he said.

Entrepreneurship requires you to be a generalist, not a specialist, Peterson said, which makes a liberal arts degree perfect for a business owner.

“Augustana is filled with the right people, classes, experiences and encouragement to help students discover how they want to spend their lives. I certainly didn’t foresee the career I’m in today, but Augustana gave me the foundation that made it possible.”

Peterson and his wife, Erica ’04, live in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, with their 4-year-old son, Finn. They continue to stay in touch with friends made at Augie who share their curiosities, values and interests.

“Augustana helped shape my notion of vocation. It’s my sincere hope that the work I do has a purpose and is for the benefit of others. That lens to see work as a way to serve and better our world was a seed that was planted at Augustana and it’s something that gives my work meaning,” he said.