Mink farming has a rich history in Franklin

Jackson Hobbs a fifth generation mink farmer shows of one of their prize mink

Franklin, Idaho was, at one time, well-known for its mink farms. Jeff Hobbs, a fourth-generation fur farmer in Franklin, said he was told there were over 40 mink ranches in his tiny hometown when he was a child. Today, there are old empty mink sheds scattered throughout the county.

Lew Palmer of Preston feeds his mink in one of his sheds

The mink industry is a fairly young in the U.S., Hobbs said.

“It started in the early 1900s,” he said. “It was a little different than the large scale mink farms they have today.”

People had mink in their backyard, maybe a 100 mink, and still had to milk their cows, raise chickens, feed their steers, plant their fields or work at the local cannery.

The reason for the decline in the small farms was technology, Hobbs explained.

“It’s like the rest of agriculture, you have to produce more units,” Hobbs said. “There is a lot more technology you need to be successful in farming. Technology is expensive; you have to have the production to make it pay for itself.”

Western fur farming may have got its start in Idaho, today Utah leads the country in mink farms, said Michael Whelan, Executive Director of the Fur Commission USA. And Idaho is right behind them. However, Wisconsin produces the largest number of mink in the country.

More than 85 percent of pelts used in the world’s fur trade comes from small, family-run farms. There are approximately 275 mink farms in the U.S.

More than 85 percent of pelts used in the world’s fur trade come from small, family-run farms. There are approximately 275 mink farms in 23 states across the United States. In 2013, those farmers produced about 3 million pelts annually, with a value of more than $300 million, Whelan said.

Raising mink is a generational thing; their fathers and grandfathers did it as a way of life, he said.

Prices have been low the past couple of years. There are a good share of mink ranchers that have empty cages, some owners have found other work.

“There were a few years when the prices were good and more farmers were producing more skins than the market could take,” Whelan said. “We have to stay within the demand, or prices will fall through the floor.”

The industry spokesperson said the market was depressed due to over production.

A mink shed on the Hobbs ranch in Franklin County houses the animals.

“Retail sales are as good as they have ever been. We do see light at the end of the tunnel,” Whelan said. “At its peak, there were 80 million pelts on the market. We are down to 40 to 50 (million) pelts this year, more in line with the demand.”

A lot has been said about California cities – like Los Angeles, San Francisco and West Hollywood – trying to ban furs. He said it was a ploy by animal rights people. Those same people are showing old and manipulated videos of animals being mistreated in China or other places.

“We’ve encouraged animal rights people to check us out, not judge the industry by one bad actor,” Whelan said. “Animals are these peoples’ livelihood, if they aren’t well taken care of they won’t do well at the market.”

It’s really hard to battle misinformation. Whelan said those cities never get cold enough to justify wearing fur, it is more of a luxury.

“Los Angeles is warm, it’s in the 70’s all year round,” he said. “Banning fur wouldn’t fly in colder parts of the county.” Hobbs pointed out that China buys 80 percent of the world’s fur. If cities in California ban fur it is a minute part of the market.

Today, Utah leads the country in mink farms and Idaho is right behind them. Wisconsin produces the largest number of mink in the country.

Whelan said the mink fur raised in the U.S. is top quality because their care is top quality.

“America is known for the best quality fur. You can tell how well an animal is taken care of by the quality of the fur,” he said. “The animal’s health shows up in dogs, cats, horses and cows by the quality of their fur.”

Most mink farmers are reluctant to talk about what their ranches produce because of animal rights activists, and they go to great lengths to protect their investments with high tech security measures.

Animal Rights Activists have attacked fur farms across the country.

Jackson Hobbs holds one of the mink he raises on his Franklin farm.

Preston mink farmer Lew Palmer had his farm attacked by animal rights activists in October of 1997. The activist released more than 4,000 of Palmer’s mink. Some of them got run over on the nearby highway; some were confused and just sat there. Friends and fellow mink farmers helped catch all but nearly four dozen of the thousands of mink animals released.

The attack devastated Palmer’s mink and it took years to rebuild it. The last few years Palmer and other mink farmers have beefed up high tech security systems to protect their investments.

For Hobbs, fur production is only a piece of his bigger farming picture. He uses mink manure to fertilize his vegetables, corn to feed his beef herd.


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  • M G Durrant January 5, 2019 at 8:15 pm Reply

    I worked from 1963-69 for a Cache Valley farmer who raised 200-300 mink along with his other farming operations. Mink are an aggressive muscular animal with long, sharp canine teeth. The males could bite all the way through leather gloves which were more than 1/2″ thick, drawing blood. During the first one or two rainstorms of the spring, after the kits had been born, the noise of the rain on the metal roof would frighten the kits, which thereupon reminded me that they are, just like skunks, members of the weasel family when they released their stinky musk.

  • Ty Savoy January 6, 2019 at 5:41 am Reply

    Mnk farming is cruel by it’s very nature. Putting a still wild animal in a small cage, keeping them there for their entire lives, and then killing them — for something no one needs. IN fact when people take a good objective look at fur farming, they reject it in large majority numbers.

    It isn’t just a warm weather California thing to been this sickness .Ireland is looking at banning fur farming now. Serbia just did this past week, joining a growing list of countries to have done so.

    Animal rights campaigners are calling for an immediate ban on fur farming in Ireland.

    Singer and animal rights activist Morrissey previously wrote to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed calling for an end to the ‘stale status symbol nobody wants any more.’


    Serbia’s fur farm ban has officially gone into effect, sparing the lives of as many as 12,000 chinchillas a year.

    The 2009 Animal Welfare Act, which passed a decade ago, outlawed fur farming with a 10-year transitional period. According to the Fur Free Alliance, an international coalition of more than 40 animal protection groups, the victory comes after years of fur lobbyists fighting to reverse the law. Fur advocates pushed harder in 2018, culminating in a debate during a public session calling for the act’s cancellation last June.


  • Harmandeep Rai January 6, 2019 at 12:08 pm Reply

    How sad, how much money do u need so that you have to feed an animal just to kill….humans have no limits to thier greed .

  • Keith Laursen January 6, 2019 at 8:25 pm Reply

    Denny and Marilyn Low were family friends they lived in Franklin and had a mink farm in Franklin

  • Rob January 7, 2019 at 12:36 pm Reply

    Ah yes the nutters come out telling us fur farming is bad. It’s not actually. The mink live lives of luxury, having no stress and being well taken care of. Yes they do die for their fur to be used, but for those of us who understand that fur and leather are the greenest of products this is acceptable. No one other product can do what fur does, or last as long and be repurposed many times if someone wants to.

  • Randy Lloyd May 24, 2020 at 5:18 am Reply

    We were mink ranchers from upstate NY. We bought males from Wisconsin and Minnesota to enhance our herd. We pelted around 50,000 a year. We sold our first raw to Hudson Bay in NYC. If you’d ever like to chat more, I’d love too. Brings back find memories, except the bites from a protective jet female.
    [email protected]

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