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Ben Gotschall’s great-grandparents began raising commercial Hereford and Angus cattle in 1936 in Holt County, Nebraska. The ranch was eventually passed to his father and Ben was born and raised on land his family had been farming for three generations. When Ben was 10 years old, he started helping with milking and immediately fell in love with Belle, the only Jersey in his father’s herd of Holsteins. “She stood out to me as the little brown cow who was quite capable of holding her own with her bigger black and white herdmates,” Ben remembers. After a year of milking, his father let him choose one calf to care for and start his own herd and, of course, he chose Belle’s first calf. A year later, Ben used the money he’d saved from milking to buy her second calf and, through the American Jersey Cattle Association’s Genetic Recovery program, soon had a small herd of registered Jersey cattle. In 1997, as a high school senior, Ben had the top-performing Jersey herd in the state of Nebraska for milk and protein production, with just 14 cows.
Although Hamid Markazi’s family owned a farm when he was growing up, he only gained limited hands on experience with farming and chose a different career in geology and environmental engineering. It wasn’t until later on in his life that Hamid and his wife decided to purchase some land in McHenry County, Illinois, and built a house and a barn. The Markazis maintained a couple of pastures for their daughters to keep and ride their horses, and decided to introduce some other farm animals to develop their farming experience. “As the kids moved on to college to pursue their undergraduate and later graduate degrees, we began to focus on expanding our farming business,” says Hamid.
Amy and Tony Jagla acquired a historic 10.5-acre farm in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2011 that they expanded their backyard chicken operation into a business. While producing food for their family, the couple realized just how much they enjoyed farming. Now, with the help of two of their three children, Katlin and Tyler (Justin is currently in the army), they raise 300–350 Dark Cornish chickens and 50 Cornish Game Hens for meat each year. They named their new venture Platypus Flats Ranch after the animal which, like their farm, is a little bit of everything, and the flat lands it sits on.
Although Bill and Laura Berube had always lived in the suburbs, they both loved animals and were interested in one day moving to a farm to raise them. Taking a Beginning Farmer course at the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota was an important step towards realizing their dreams. For although the Berubes weren’t able to complete the course due to other commitments, it gave them the knowledge and inspiration they needed to explore their livestock options when they eventually purchased the 40-acre dairy in Split Rock Township in 2007. After considering sheep, horses, and cattle, they decided on goats—the right size for their small property, and a browsing animal that was well-adapted to the farm environment.
AWA farmers Lanette and Larry Stec both grew up on conventional farms, always with a desire to do something different. When, as adults, they returned to farming, they did so by transitioning Larry’s family’s farm to an organic, pasture-based system.
Melissa Driscoll of Seven Songs Organic Farm in Kenyon, Minnesota, developed an interest in sustainable farming at an early age. She sold garden vegetables alongside her mother at farmers’ markets and raised chickens for 4H.
Donna Schauer, a lawyer and magistrate judge, grew up with horses and raising lambs. When her two oldest daughters were young, their family continued to raise animals, but this time horses and poultry. Despite her passion for country living, her profession kept her in the city for many years – until 2004, when she bought land in rural Dallas County, Iowa, and established Sunny Silver Maple Farm.
By Animal Welfare Approved
| September 27, 2012
While Julie is proud of the success of her system, she’s the first to admit that it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. “I spent a lot of the first seven years hating working with the rabbits,” she explains. “It wasn’t returning a profit and I felt that I had no resources to support me. But the rabbits have given me so many other things, and working with them has been such a creative outlet for me. The uniqueness of the system I have developed, and the challenges I have had to overcome, have taught me so much over the years.”
By Animal Welfare Approved
| September 5, 2012
After attending college and pursing very different careers in special education and biology, respectively, Erica Solis and Joel Helge purchased their 40 acre farm in Stoughton, Wisconsin in June 2010 as a way to provide sustainably-farmed eggs, meat and fiber for themselves, their families, and the local community.
Situated upon a glacial moraine hill, Emancipation Acres sits upon the dividing summit between the Yahara River watershed to the west and Koshkengon Creek to the east. The groundwater all flows out of two ravines out of the north side of the property, toward the Yahara River. Erica and Joel’s goal is to use livestock to restore the fertility in the soil, manage the invasive weeds, and create a fluid, sustainable system. As Erica explains, the steep terrain of the farm means that multi-species grazing represents the best utilization for the land: “Effective pasture management is not only important for building the natural fertility of the soil,” “It also allows us to manage weeds and desired forage without reliance on herbicides, and enables us to control parasites and disease in the animals without resorting to routine veterinary treatments.”