Our History - A Family of Food Pioneers Who Care
I Bill Rose Becomes the Mushroom Farmer
The year was 1975.
Family man and Chicago-based food entrepreneur Bill Rose owned and operated a thriving French restaurant in Elk Grove Village, at the height of fine-dining in the Chicagoland area. Bill was committed to serving quality food, passing up opportunities to work with fast-food pioneers to focus on sourcing locally and delivering a fine-dining experience that provided food he was truly proud to serve.
While searching for the best possible ingredients for his restaurant, Bill learned that a commitment to quality can mean risky business. It was a challenge to develop relationships with like-minded farmers who produced and provided quality foods with consistency. Bill needed more suppliers he could trust, who could deliver on time, so he could continue to improve the quality of his dishes and deliver on his menu every single night. He kept searching.
At the time, it was nearly impossible to get fresh mushrooms in the Midwest; most restaurants were using canned mushrooms that weren’t very good. One mushroom farmer seemed like a good supplier for Bill, but after the farmer inherited a huge plot of land, and sold it off for big chunk of money, his mushroom business became an afterthought, and Bill was back where he started. He couldn’t find the mushrooms he needed but he discovered a new opportunity.
If he couldn’t source the ingredients necessary to deliver dishes he was proud to serve, it seemed clear that many other restauranteurs were in the same boat. Maybe it was time to try something new, to take a leap of faith, to become the mushroom source he was always looking for. In 1976, Bill Rose sold his French restaurant and purchased land in SE Wisconsin.
He launched River Valley Ranch, with a vision to become the mushroom farmer who cares.
II The Dream Becomes a Nightmare
Bill immediately took his son Eric under his wing, and Eric took a deep interest in the work, helping to build the farm, quickly learning and becoming instrumental in farm operations. Together, the father-and-son team were determined to make the mushroom farm dream a reality. But like most farmers, they faced major setbacks in the early years, and just as the farm began to produce consistent crop, farm operations were abruptly interrupted, when the government came knocking on the door and notified Bill they would be seizing his land.
And just like that, River Valley Ranch needed a new home.
To put farm operations on hold, set up shop at a new location, and start from the beginning, would take a toll on the business and their lives, but Bill and Eric would not give up. Forced to take on huge debt to keep the dream alive, they searched and found a new home for River Valley Ranch - Burlington, Wisconsin - just miles away from the original farm. They packed their bags and loaded up the equipment, and hit the road. But tragedy would strike with a blow.
During the move, Bill Rose and his hired hand were killed in a horrific accident when a semi-trailer breached the highway median and struck their vehicle. Shocked, and in pain, Eric inherited the new farm and its mounting debt and decided that he would commit to realizing the dream he shared with his father, but he would have to do it alone. Battling grief and market forces, Eric moved forward with relentless focus, and the new River Valley Ranch was formed.
III Eric Rose Becomes the Farmer & Entrepreneur
The first ten years were bloods, sweat, and tears. Eric expanded the mushroom farm’s output, growing from a two-man operation cultivating only white button mushrooms to a 40-man operation growing a wide variety of mushrooms and other produce. The last one to eat, Eric put his team first, and battled financially for over a decade, supporting his family by bartering with neighbors and growing food on the family farm. He would not give up, but River Valley Ranch was still losing money. The only option was to get creative.
One day, a friend visited Eric at the Farm Store with a special gift - a jar of mushrooms from the farm that he had pickled at home. Within six months, Eric was pickling mushrooms and selling them at the Farm Store and farmers markets in Illinois and Wisconsin, and RVR Kitchens was born. Over the next few years, Eric developed a wide array of value-added products including pasta sauces, salsas, hot sauces and so much more. Like his father before him, he evolved.
IV Jordan Rose Becomes the Chef & Entrepreneur
Meanwhile, Eric’s son Jordan was in search of his dreams, leaving a corporate job to board the next bus out of town. He arrived in a small town on the water’s edge of Lake Superior, and soon-after secured a unique opportunity working with a local entrepreneur, who owned a small bed-and-breakfast with a boat service that featured fine-dining experiences. It was on this boat, in a tiny kitchen, that Jordan discovered his passion; making people smile through food.
Jordan worked his way up in the culinary world. His years growing up on the family farm proved valuable, as Jordan had a rare appreciation and deep understanding of food, providing him a strong foundation to excel in the kitchen. After flourishing at some of the top restaurants in Chicago, Jordan was hired to design the menu for what would become a critically-acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant, and shortly after, he was ready to open his own.
In winter of 2013, Jordan and Eric Rose opened the River Valley Farmer’s Table, an authentic farm-to-table restaurant and specialty grocery store in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago. The Farmer’s Table is the next evolution of River Valley Ranch, becoming a community hub for farm-inspired dining, shopping, and local food and specialty liquor delivery. In 2023, the Farmer's Table was officially closed.
V River Valley Ranch Continues to Grow
Today, River Valley Ranch is a multi-disciplinary, sustainable family food business that employs over 50 people, operating a year-round farm operation, farm store and kitchen in Wisconsin, a local delivery operation and 30+ farmers markets in Illinois and Wisconsin. Find our mushrooms and handcrafted specialty foods at a farmers market near you. We carry on the tradition of Bill Rose, with a commitment to quality, with a need to provide foods that we are proud to serve you.