Grassroots Farm- Spring of 2009
A Brief History
Since our first steps on the farm property in the fall of 2007, we’ve come quite a distance. For the first 8 months we worked on developing a business model consistent with our principles. Business plan in mind, our next goal was to observe the land while Lindsey finished up her employment with other organic vegetable enterprises. May 2008, we rented the pasture for a year to a herdsman raising Belted Galloway cattle. During the course of 2008, we planned improvements, mended fences, explored financial opportunities, acquired equipment, and, in June 2008, registered as Grassroots Farm, LLC, a Wisconsin Limited Liability Company.
By February 2009, Lindsey was ready to go into vegetable production. A seedling greenhouse was constructed near the old barn. A serendipitous referral to a connection in Chicago led to an invitation to participate in the first year of a neighborhood Farmer’s Market in Andersonville. Our farmer’s market business has continued to grow with the Andersonville market into a multifaceted enterprise. We discuss food issues and politics, swap recipes, and give direction on preparation and use of the produce and herbs on the market table.
The spring of 2010 found the farm a recipient of a Frontera Farmer’s Foundation grant that made it possible to construct a 24′ x 30′, two story aluminum pole barn that serves as our vegetable processing shed. Lindsey added the first season of Community Supported Agriculture to the business mix, bringing share boxes to Chicago and also with members in Madison, WI. A NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service) grant was received to build a high tunnel, completed by Lindsey in November 2010, where 2011 Spring CSA share veggies were produced.
Throughout the year 2011, we added livestock to the diversity of products. Certified Organic Eggs were available to our customers from April through October, when our mature flock of laying hens made a trip to an “old chix” retirement home near Whitewater, WI. We will acquire a new flock for the upcoming season. We also raised 8 Duroc-Hampshire cross pigs for market this year and are able to offer fresh frozen and smoked pork cuts as part of our product mix. 2012 will bring the prospect of turkey, chicken, honey, beef, and another round of delicious custom milk-fed pork.
2012 marked the 5th year of 5th year of land ownership for Grassroots Farm. Lindsey built a 12’x16′ hog pasture range house for the comfort of our hogs, as well as a multipurpose moveable livestock shelter we used for our turkey shelter. Our transplant production greenhouse also received a face-lift with a 12 foot addition. Despite the severe drought Wisconsin and the rest of the Upper Midwest experienced, we successfully filled CSA boxes all season, without many empty corners. Our farmers’ market, however, was affected the worst with weather too extreme to keep up with previous years’ flow of customers. Consequently, after some math and tough decision-making, we have decided to discontinue farmers’ market sales and continue to focus on diversifying our small farm operation. We will be offering our fresh organic veggies exclusiely to our CSA customers and minimally through wholesales to grocers and restaurants.
As promised, we delivered whole fresh frozen turkey and goat milk-fed pork to our customers this past 2012 season. After a pilot batch of 35 broad-breasted white turkeys, fed only organic feed, organic pasture, and raised from day-old poults, we were excited to expand our turkey production and open sales to the public for the 2013 season. Our pork production continues to expand as we have kept back a female to breed in an effort to keep our costs down and create a more sustainable farm system.
During the 2013 season, we shifted into a new marketing plan that includes a single season Summer CSA Vegetable Share, a Fresh Brown Egg Share, a Cut-Flower Bouquet Share, and a Thanksgiving Share (with or without one of our own turkeys). Thanks to the help of a local UW-Stevens Point intern Jacob, we constructed a permanent turkey shelter to house as many as 75 turkeys. We also converted an old fashioned barge box wagon to a mobile chicken coop, which will house our mixed breed flock of rainbow egg layers this 2014 growing season.
The 2014 season marked our 6th year in business as Grassroots Farm, LLC, where we expanded our CSA membership base, number of delivery locations, value-added product line, CSA offerings, and livestock enterprise. It remained our goal to make local, fresh food available to an economically diverse customer base as we now offer a variety of share choices at multiple price points depending on proximity to the farm and customer preference/budget.
2015 represented a season that was as close to “normal” weather-wise, as we can expect. Topping out at 75 regular season vegetable share members, we had our work cut out for us with just one hard working farm hand (in addition to FL) and a small crew of devoted worker-shares. With the fantastic high quality produce and dairy supplementation from our many local chemical-free farming and cheese making friends, we knocked out a wonderful CSA year and re-joined our Andersonville Community in Chicago through the Wednesday evening Farmers’ Market.
2016 is expected to be our best season yet. Working off of 6 full years of CSA experience, and 12 total seasons of farming organic vegetables in the Upper Midwest, Farmer Lindsey is thrilled to be able to utilize the past season’s successes to help steer an abundant CSA season into 2016 and beyond.
From 40 acres of Canada thistle to thriving, diverse small farm, we have “miles to go” and are enthusiastic about the future of farming on Dutch Hollow Road in Monroe, WI.
Check out Part 2 our winning video submission (below) for the John Kinsman Beginning Farmer Food Sovereignty Prize