It all started part-time as Eric and I both had "off-farm" jobs, (I still do,) and we could only do so much. The first year we raised 25 broiler chickens, and once the word got out, we didn't have many left for ourselves. Eric quickly decided that he wanted Scottish Highland cattle because of all their wonderful qualities, including hardiness, beauty and the ability to thrive on less quality pasture and hay, so we bought 2 bred cows and 1 steer-- we were pleasantly surprised how delicious and tender the meat was on grass alone. Our herd has grown from those 2 cows with a purchase of our fantastic bull, Mr. T, who came from an outstanding herd from northern Wisconsin, to 12 breeding animals.
Our first garden was approximately 40' x 40', with a little bit of this and a little bit of that... Monroe was our first place to do the farmers' market, which taught us a lot about people-- what they eat, what they don't eat, and what they are willing to pay (and not pay!) for local, fresh produce. Let's just say it was an excellent learning experience! Through hard work and long days, we quickly put our name on the waiting list for the Dane County Farmers' Market, and became daily vendors at the Hilldale farmers' market in Madison in 2000. From the small garden of 40' x 40', the next year's garden grew to almost 4 acres with more variety... and lots more work! Today we are up to around 12 acres with rented land around us. We have also become more specified and concentrate on potatoes, tomatoes, greens, garlic, onions, leeks, squash and root vegetables.
Laying hens were the next big project, and after we started to raise a few for our eggs, we quickly realized that there was a huge demand for awesome eggs from happy hens. We have grown to around 600 layers and still haven't met the demand. Eggs are washed & packed by everyone, and the reward pays off when people run up to the market stand in hopes that there is at least one dozen left for them!.
Icelandic sheep became my project very quickly-- though all of the research is done by Eric, I fell in love with these creatures immediately and can't imagine our farm without them. Every one has its own personality and fiber quality, but they all seem to be excellent mothers and efficient grazers. While starting with 3 bred ewes, we are up to 35 ewes and 3 rams. The meat has an excellent flavor, the fiber is known for its hand-spinning qualities and colors, and the milk is a cheesemaker's dream (at least that is what I've been told, and we hold it as a future possibility for another part of the farm.) These animals bring a tranquility to the farm that is hard to match; if I have a hard day at "the office," one glance at them and relaxation takes over.
So how did the pasture pork come to be? Well, we needed the best bacon and sausage to accompany our fabulous eggs! Breakfast is usually the best meal of the day around here, (except for lunch and dinner...) We have used the hogs to "rototill" new garden spots or unused pasture that is not suitable for any of our other animals. We have enjoyed raising them and will be doing so year-round and selling at the Dane County Farmers' Market on the square starting this spring. We offer every cut to our customers and welcome requests of not-so favorite cuts as well.
Our farm is continuously growing as people are becoming aware of where their food is coming from and how it is raised. We are excited to talk about how we farm and we look forward to our customers' questions and comments. With the help of family and friends, we are hoping that our small farm will continue to provide families with wholesome and nutrient-rich meats and produce. We encourage people to contact us with questions, in hopes that they will learn how and why we farm.