Linda Halley is the Managing Director of Gwenyn Hill Farm in the town of Delafield. “Gwenyn” means bee in Welsh. Halley says the name is a nod to the generations of people who cultivated this lush valley, starting in 1842.
“One Williams married the original farmer’s daughter, another Williams bought the land next door, so it was just a valley of Williams farmers. [They] dairy farm and one of them had sheep, [which is] a Welsh thing, ”says Hawley.
By the 2010s, most of the Williams family had moved out. It looked like a housing estate was going to take the place of the farm. Instead, the new farm owner hired Halley to revive the farm with a retro twist.
“We brought the diversity back to a 1950s or 1940s farm in Wisconsin with many species of animals and a few chickens for the eggs. We’ve tended small fields and, well, we even use horses every now and then, ”says Halley.
Gwenyn’s cows spend their days hanging out by the barn and munching on food.
“They are crossed so that they are very good grazers on grass and make a high content of butterfat and protein in their milk on grass,” says Halley. It is part of the biological process, livestock feed on the land for as many months of the year as possible.
And that’s where Gwenyn’s huge workhorses and Cattle Manager Ryan Heinen come in.
“I like to feed myself as much as possible from the pasture, because all the residual hay, manure and urine go back into the soil and help the growth of our pastures,” explains Heinen. “And it’s less work; I don’t need to transport the manure.
Heinen’s path to organic farming began with a keen interest in conservation.
“I started to think that if there was a way to cultivate that would restore or maintain the grasslands, it would be good for the land, the soil, the water while producing good food for the people”, he said.
But Heinen hit a roadblock that many aspiring farmers face. “I didn’t grow up on a farm, unless I was born on a farm, it’s really hard to start on my own,” he says.
Linda Halley has practiced organic farming for almost 30 years in Wisconsin and California, among others. She hopes Gwenyn can be a role model – helping young producers like Ryan Heinen gain experience and serving, what she calls, a hyperlocal resource.
Halley says the 240 families who buy fresh vegetables and greens during the growing season live within 10 miles of the farm. “We really feed our community,” she says. “And we manage a resource within the community: land, soil and water. “
But Halley acknowledges that nearly 19,000 small organic farms across the country face challenges. In recent years, some very large farms have been certified organic by the USDA, despite concerns that their animals will be confined indoors, rather than spending time outdoors and, in the case of livestock, on pasture. – practices essential to organic farming.
“And so yeah, it impacts us because when you have 20,000 hens in the barn and they really never come out,” says Halley. “We charge $ 6.50 per dozen for our organic free-range eggs that are fed only the foods we grow on our farm. ”
Halley thinks what she calls “a towering cloud of cheap food” needs to change. She suggests hyperlocal organic food is the key to a sustainable future.
“People have to be prepared to pay the real price for food, otherwise our water resources, our air resources and our land resources will end up degrading,” says Halley.
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