Time to officially let the cat out of the bag - we are moving! We are packing up our sweet little farm and heading five hours north to the Burnett County, Wisconsin area. In this post, I will share with you our reasons for moving the farm, what the new farm is like, what our new farm plans are, and how we feel taking this enormous step.
Why are we moving the farm?
Our reasons for moving are three-fold. First, after spending the last five years farming in Milwaukee, I feel like I have outgrown the five-acre plot of land we call home. My goals have drastically changed from when I first started this little blog. I went from homesteader (growing our own food for ourselves) to farmer (growing food for others in our community) and teacher (teaching other farmers how to use online marketing for their farm products).
After launching our farmstand and working directly with our community during the height of the pandemic, a fire ignited in me to expand our farming operation so we can feed more families. On average we were providing eggs for 150 monthly customers and my goal is to triple that number. This isn’t possible on the five acres of land we call home, especially with us restoring a large portion of the land to a natural wetland ecosystem. Overseeing more acreage to raise more livestock became a must.
Second, we have no family in the Milwaukee area. My husband’s job brought us to Southeastern Wisconsin and while we’ve enjoyed our time here immensely, we have felt in our hearts that it's time to go home. Home to us is Northwestern Wisconsin, where our parents all now live. Thus, taking any time away for the holidays to be with family was always a huge undertaking because we had to get trustworthy help for the farm. I am an anxious gal and even though we have great farm sitters, I still would fret over having to leave our livestock.
Lastly, we want to raise our future kids up near grandmas and grandpas. I’ve been a bit of a late bloomer among my closest friends - getting married almost dead last and still waiting on having kiddos. This has been a blessing for me as I’ve been able to learn and observe how important family is when you are raising a child. I’ve had so many friends tell me they couldn’t imagine raising kids without their folks close by to help.
So moving closer to our families, expanding the farm operation, and being able to have holidays without stress became priorities we couldn't ignore any longer. We closed on our new farm at the end of August and we could not be more excited.
What is the new farm is like?
Before I dive in, I want to address the issue of land ownership and access for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People Of Color) farmers in America. While my husband and I are able to purchase 80 acres of stolen Indigenous land in Burnett County - specifically Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Sioux) land - BIPOC farmers consistently struggle to gain land access and ownership.
During this transition, our white privilege is not lost on us and we have made a conscious effort to donate to multiple BIPOC GoFundMe campaigns to spread our generational wealth to those in need. I think it is crucial as a white female farmer to speak plainly about these issues. It’s vital to dismantle the taboo that white farmers cannot break from white solidarity and openly address their privilege in a broken agricultural system.
So to my fellow white farmers, I hope you can sit with discomfort today, move through it by leaning into compassion and empathy, and create positive change by donating or investing in one of the following BIPOC farmers who need our help and support:
Loveland Acres Fund
Frank Community Farm Fund
Sylvanaqua Farms Invest
Ashanti Williams Fund
Woodbridge Farm Fund
We Sow We Grow Project Fund
The property includes about 20 acres of pasture, 50 acres of wooded terrain, and about 10 acres of pond/wetlands.
The existing infrastructure includes:
So to be clear - there's no enclosed garage or workshop to use during Wisconsin winters... yeah we know. It’s one gigantic project, but if you know us - that’s exactly what we love.
What are our new farm plans?
With each of the following farm goals, I plan on sharing a video and blog post about our process and how things ended up. Be sure to check back!
Renovate the barn - While the barn has great bones, it needs some serious TLC. You can stick your whole arm through the exterior walls (AKA not predator-proof for chickens). We plan on gutting the entire barn, adding new windows, stalls, an insulated workroom for butchering and medical care, and bringing electric and plumbing to it from the house.
Build and cultivate a new garden - So many have asked if I’m heartbroken to leave behind my gigantic garden in Milwaukee, but the truth is I am excited to get another chance to make it more to my personal gardening style. My dad helped me build this garden and those memories are worth their weight in gold. With so many resources out there on creating your first garden, sometimes you do what everyone else is doing without knowing what is actually best for you. Having a second chance to create the garden of my dreams is such a wonderful opportunity for this green thumb!
Expand our pastured egg chicken operation - I have been networking with local CSAs in the area and figuring out how many layers we will need to provide pastured eggs for their weekly, biweekly, or monthly boxes. With only 45 hens coming with us, we will be hatching out close to 250 chicks in the early spring. My goal is to get these layers out on pasture in our A-frame mobile chicken tractors by May of 2021 with our soon-to-be livestock guardian dog, Spot. Speaking of Spot...
Everyone, meet Spot! He is a 3-year-old Maremma, already trained to poultry, who we are bringing onto the new farm this fall. Paul and I couldn’t be more excited for this addition to our farm. I’ll definitely be diving into my experience with an LGD in future posts.
Get started with dairy goats - Adding dairy goats to our farm is for selfish reasons and farm reasons. I want some cute Nigerian dwarf goats so badly to cuddle with, but I also want them for their milk to create value-added products for the farm. I’ve been super curious about soap making and soft cheese making with goats milk. My goal is to start with 2 to 3 goats and expand from there once I feel comfortable with the goat keeping process. With 50 acres of forested land, I hope to also responsibly clear thick undergrowth and brush using the goats.
Network with local businesses - I feel that one of my biggest strengths is my ability to network on an entrepreneurial level. I love reaching out to other business owners and collaborating on ideas to bring our community together and make our community a healthier place. Once moved, I hope to work with local breweries, distilleries, co-ops, and restaurants to not only up-cycle their food waste and spent grain by feeding it to our livestock - but also to provide local produce, herbs, and botanicals from our farm to them.
Host on-farm events - I'm also excited at the prospect of doing on-farm dinners underneath the Quonset hut. To have protection from the elements but still be able to dine al fresco is wonderful when planning on-farm events. Can you imagine the Quonset all decked out with twinkle lights and long wooden tables? I sure can!
Goat Yogaaaaa! - Once we begin to expand our milking herd I hope to start goat yoga classes under the Quonset on the weekends. My goal is make classes accessible for the entire community, in both a financial and physical sense.
Start farm school programming - When I was growing up, during the summer months my mom would bring my brother and me to a day camp on a farm. We got to milk cows, ride horses, feed chickens, and plant tomatoes. I was totally in my element! Those experiences were incredibly formative for me and I still remember them clearly to this day. I want to provide the same opportunities and experiences for the children and their families living around the Spooner area. I would love to be able to renovate the 100+ year old cabin (pictured above) and turn it into a community gathering space to teach classes and even make it available to other business owners to host workshops.
Host an AirBnb Farmstay - This old cabin can also serve as an AirBnb farmstay experience for families looking to learn more about on-farm living or get some much needed rest and tranquility.
Start a YouTube channel - one of the most common questions I’ve been asked is, “Kelsey, why haven’t you started a YouTube channel yet?” Believe me, I know how ironic it is that this filmmaker, actress, and extrovert hasn’t seized the opportunity, but I didn’t want to create content around things that I myself was learning as a complete beginner.
One of my biggest pet peeves is watching YouTube videos where the creator openly shares how they have no idea what they are doing and this is their first time raising chickens or building a fence or doing a medical procedure on livestock - yet they are making teachable content! Oof, okay, rant over. Ultimately, I feel a heck of a lot more confident sharing how we’re going to build our farm from the ground up the second time around than I did the first time around. Click below to get subscribed!
Will we miss our first farm?
Of course! As I look back on the last five years I am in awe of how much we have accomplished with the help of our families and friends. Launching a farmstand, writing a 200+ page ebook all about holistic living, growing our pastured laying flock to 95 birds by building A-frame chicken tractors, and teaching other farmers and homesteaders about all things online marketing - it's been quite the journey.
Me, my husband, and our families and friends have put blood, sweat, and tears into this homestead-now-farm and I am grateful for every moment, whether they were hard or joyful ones. Here's to the next the chapter!
Thanks for stopping by Green Willow Homestead! From chicken rearing to composting, we've got our hands full and we love sharing what we've learned along the way. Follow along as we turn the 80 acres we call home into a farm that serves its community and a homestead that nourishes us throughout the seasons.
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Favorite Books of 2022
2. Braiding Sweetgrass
3. As Long As Grass Grows
4. The Small Scale Poultry Flock
5. The Zero Waste Solution