In 2005 they found themselves taking on a fresh piece of hay field and turning it into a one-acre raised bed garden in the Endless Mountain Region of Pennsylvania. Here Jacqui continued to pursue education in becoming an USDA Certified Organic Farm Inspector and hence decided to make their new farm certified organic. Jacqui chose this as a side career to keep abreast with organic standards and information. Visiting various farms at times even helped seeing new and innovative ideas that she could bring back to the farm.
The trade for the land was spreading biodynamic preparations on the 80-acre farm allowing for an affordable opportunity to try out organic farming. This opportunity gave them the chance to see if they could do it on their own and if they enjoyed it. The answer is that they did! Daniel also did side work with a man who specialized in timber frame restoration and was able to bring that knowledge back to Wisconsin to do timber framing.
The following holiday season they came for the visit to Wisconsin and were by chance checking the real estate ads and found a farm for sale in Fredonia. They placed a bid on it three days after it was on the market. In March 2006 they moved in to their new home and took the summer to establish the irrigation throughout the farm and put up two small greenhouses. In 2006 Jacqui began conducting her first certified organic inspection work in Wisconsin.
Finally in 2007 they were ready to grow food for local markets and chefs with a handful of CSA members to try their hand out with a CSA program. Over the years they continued to expand the garden, steward and improve their land. Willoway Farm grows all crops on a 1.5 acre garden. The garden is created to exemplify the French Intensive Garden method which includes permanent raised beds with soft clover footpaths between. They are committed to using only heirloom and GMO -free seeds. In the winter of 2009 Dan began work on their wash building, which he built from reclaimed barn timbers. Dan used local cedar trees to froe the shingles. This building made the garden complete and is nestled in the heart of the garden.
The couple raises diverse varieties of chickens for brown and blue eggs and eventually bought Finn sheep for fiber, manure and the hope to someday milk them. They raise honeybees mainly for the garden and themselves as there is nothing like hanging out with honeybees. The honeybees add a sublime presence. The couple also does their best to spread biodynamic preparations several times during the growing season and in their compost. Their compost consists of a mix of aged heifer manure, chicken manure and sheep manure. They are strong believers in managing the farm as a whole ecosystem and relying on their farm's own fertility to avoid bringing off farm fertility to their land. They cultivate the land using human power, keeping the farm at a human manageable scale. This eliminates the high compaction from large equipment and the purchasing of gas-oil and maintaining large equipment. Using hand hoes, broadfork, scythes all add to their farm atmosphere and continue to create a peaceful place to work. For the past five years they grafted heirloom apple trees to their choice of rootstock for an apple orchard atop a hill on their farm. Since 2008 they have been able to supply flowers for weddings.
In 2010 they reaped a very special “harvest” -- their first baby, Samuel. Samuel has brought much joy and new outlook on the future of the farm. And now they have the pleasure of giving Samuel a sibling in 2013.
They both continue to educate themselves with a vast library of gardening books and attend such conferences as the Upper Midwest Organic Conference over the years. They are suppliers of several top 30 Milwaukee Restaurants: Braise, Buckley's, Carnevor and Hinterland Gastropub. This summer will be their first summer attending the South Shore Farmer's Market in Milwaukee. They also have a slew of new heirloom tomatoes, peppers, greens, flowers and onions to add to their CSA menu.
This blog post was written by Theresa Lins. Theresa is a Milwaukee-based writer and Urban Ecology Center “groupie”. She has been active in promoting the Center and its programs for over 14 years. Other than eating farm-fresh food, her favorite thing is to write about it and the people who produce it.
You can meet these farmers and many others at the Local Farmer Open House on March 9th at our Riverside Park branch. Meet and sign up with farmers, learn how you can join a CSA farm (purchase a share of the harvest) and get a box of fresh produce each week during the season. Join us for this free event!