Where are you from?
I grew up on the east side of Wisconsin on a small farm located about halfway between Green Bay and Milwaukee.
What was your journey to farming?
I attended the University of WI- Madison in Agriculture. I came to realize agricultural jobs were either in sales or in lending. I did both, but not happily. So, I went back to the UW and researched degrees that could still use my undergraduate classes and credits, but be different enough to take me in another direction. I received a MS in Food Business in 1988. I worked in the Twin Cities for 5 years with a dairy processor. Again, it wasn't a great fit. I met a local dairy farmer around 1992 that was certified organic and doing a thing called Managed Rotational Grazing. I was excited! Here was a way my husband and I could get into agriculture without millions of dollars of debt. In 1993 my husband and I bought a farm near New Holstein, WI with three goals:
1. We wanted to change the whole farm (180 acres at that time) to permanent managed pastures. The cows would get all of their spring, summer and fall forage needs from the pasture.
2. We wanted to be seasonal with our dairy cows. This meant timing the breeding so all of the cows calved in the spring (around late March to late May). This would sync the cows nutritional needs to the pasture and make life easier for the calves.
3. We wanted to become certified organic.
We achieved all 3 goals by 2006.
How did you become involved with the Food Freedom Foundation?
In 2009 we started direct marketing eggs, chickens (meat) and beef. The word got out we had a premium milk product, and people started asking about buying raw milk directly from us. Although the WI Department of Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) initially allowed a membership type business structure for the sale of our raw milk, they changed their minds several years later and started seriously hassling us and other farmers also selling raw milk from their farms.
Serendipity stepped in when Elizabeth Rich (our Foundation president) walked into our farm store and heard about our problems. She started working with the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) to help us and the other farmers with the legal issues. Ultimately, the FTCLDF filed a suit against the Department of Agriculture for us. For those of you who don't know, DATCP is the government department that issues dairy licenses. It was stressful to say the least. Although we ultimately lost, we had gained another 5 years of dairy farming (while selling raw milk) and were able to get closer to retirement. We knew we couldn't continue as we had, and our whole business model depended on those raw milk sales. We sadly decided to sell.
What inspired you to become involved with FFF’s board?
The Food Freedom Foundation (FFF) was started to support organizations like the FTCLDF. These organizations exist to supply legal assistance and support with actual lawyers that know the law regarding these issues. Small farms and artisanal producers don't have the deep pockets to fight back. These organizations, with support from the Food Freedom Foundation, give help and guidance. I currently serve as Treasurer of FFF and am proud to help in any way that I can.