Four generations of Jurgielewicz family duck farming began in 1933 when Dr. Joe’s grandparents, Bronislaw and Katarzyna Jurgielewicz, emigrated to America from Poland via Ellis Island. The young, ambitious couple initially settled in Brooklyn but, driven by their entrepreneurial spirit, soon moved east to rural Long Island. Using their savings, they bought some farmland in Moriches, built a shed and purchased some Pekin ducks. The fledgling Jurgielewicz Duck Farm was hatched, and quickly became a top producer of Pekin ducks for the famous Long Island Duck Co-op.
Bronislaw, along with his son Joe Sr. and other two sons, continued building this thriving business during the 1950s and 1960s, but there were storm clouds on the horizon.
Beginning in the late 1960’s through the 1970’s, the Long Island duck farms were impacted by strict new environmental regulations, taxation, and skyrocketing land values. The result was that most of the duck farms consolidated, closed or were sold to New York real estate developers.
By 1975, there were only a handful of duck farms remaining in Long Island, including the Jurgielewicz Duck Farm. In 1976, Bronislaw’s grandson, Joe Jr., left the Long Island farm to attend college and explore opportunities beyond duck farming.
In 1980, Joe Sr. decided to retire. He and his wife, Stefne, sold their shares in the Jurgielewicz Duck Farm to his brother and focused full-time on Stefne’s successful greenhouse business. At the same time, Joe Jr. began graduate study at Cornell University.
In 1983, now “Dr. Joe” graduated from Cornell Veterinary College earning his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Joe re-ignited his passion for ducks and convinced his father, Joe Sr., to come out of retirement to help him begin a duck business.
Dr. Joe and Joe Sr. traveled the East Coast searching for the ideal location to start a new duck farm. After much research with state governments, they discovered a beautiful 500 acre lot of farmland and woodlands, formerly destined to be the site of a nuclear power plant. The cancellation of nuclear reactor construction, due to the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, provided Dr. Joe and his father the opportunity to purchase this property in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, between the towns of Shartlesville and Hamburg, Pennsylvania.
Into the Future
This farm purchase meant tremendous life changes for Joe Sr. and Stefne. Besides coming out of retirement, they were leaving their comfortable lives in Moriches, NY, where they had lived for decades, and moving 200 miles west to Pennsylvania Dutch country. Dr. Joe and his parents were continuing the family spirit of entrepreneurship learned from Bronislaw. Joe Sr. and Stefne moved into a small home on the farm property, where they expected to live for two years while helping Dr. Joe get the duck business started. They still live in that home today, 30 years later.
The new company, Joe Jurgielewicz & Son, Ltd., was now formally established. Shortly after the first ducks were processed, Dr. Joe convinced his high school sweetheart, Rita Murphy, to leave her position on Wall Street and move to the hills of Pennsylvania to marry this entrepreneurial duck farmer. Together Dr. Joe and Rita have raised four sons, all of whom worked on the farm during their childhood years. Three of the sons have returned to work in the family duck business after attending college, with the youngest still attending at this time.