Danielle and Mat Boerson have been operating Boerson Farm in East Central Wisconsin since 2007. A strong desire to cultivate the soil skipped our parents’ generation, but that stubborn recessive gene began to tingle in our fingers when we found ourselves on a number of small farms across Central America in 2004. During that time, we tasted the joy which tending to plants and animals can provide, and savored the health that clean food and hard work can yield.
Upon returning home to the Midwest, we started a journey of learning about sustainable agriculture that we happily continue on today. We value environmental stewardship and community participation and find that operating a direct market farm allows us to animate those values daily. Though we never thought we would return to rural Green Lake County where we grew up, the draw of family and an infinitely beautiful landscape was beyond our power to resist. Today, our two boys of 5 and 8 live true to the translation of our surname and farm name, Boerson, meaning “farmer’s son” in Dutch.
Developing a truly sustainable farm that provides for our needs and those of the land has been our goal. We find ourselves within reach of that accomplishment, but our passion is running out ahead us. We have a deep desire to contribute to big picture solutions to the social and environmental challenges that our children see mounting before them. Small farms can revitalize soil, sequester carbon, and knit together communities; we intend to work hard to scale our impact to the extent possible to simply do our part, not just for our kids, but also for the children of neighbors we will never meet.
Boerson Farm is a diversified operation that produces certified organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, free range eggs, and pastured pork. A 75 member summer Community Supported Agriculture program accounts for about one third of our sales, while 2 farmer’s markets and farm gate sales round out our annual income sources. We are among a growing number of non-Amish farms that are utilizing draft horses for the motive power necessary to till the soil, cultivate crops, mow pastures, and move materials.
The farm we rent is made up of 45 tillable acres and we have worked to keep most of that land in permanent pasture to protect the delicate soil. About 4 acres are devoted to a rotation of vegetables and cover crops, while the remainder are divided between the various animal species on the farm. The beef herd is rotationally grazed through 30 acres of pasture, rarely spending more than 24 hours in one spot during the growing season. The chickens follow the cows in a movable coop, while the pigs enjoy a rotation of annual forage crops to meet their particular needs.
Our passion for sustainable farming began with a love of good food. The small garden we started with 8 years ago has evolved into acres of production, but the goal has always been to produce the best tasting vegetables and meat we can in ecologically sound systems. We are committed to honing our craft in the years ahead to increase the health of the soil while satisfying a growing demand for clean food.
The purpose of a Kiva Zip loan is for us to purchase 3 pregnant Red Devon beef heifers to expand our grass fed cattle
herd. Ideally suited to this farm and our production system, the Red Devon breed is known internationally to excel strictly on grass in environments with limited shade.
Our beef production up to this point has never been able to satisfy the demand we see at the markets we serve. Growing our herd from 6 cow/calf pairs to 9 pairs has the potential to increase our annual production by 50%. Each animal will cost approximately $3,000, but after 2 years from the time that their first calf is born, our net return should be about $2,686 per cow per year. The farm will not only be better able to meet a local demand for grass fed beef, but we will also increase our annual revenue and therefore better meet our financial goals.
The addition of 3 cow/calf pairs will mean an increased demand for winter feed, however the gross sales far outpace the additional feed costs. The increase in labor for a larger herd will be minimal because managing 18 animals requires approximately the same amount of time as managing 12 animals. In 2016 we will not be harvesting any hay from the farm in the interest of improving the soil health, and therefore we will have additional acres to graze as compared to years past when we did make hay. We will also enjoy a lower per animal fixed cost as we better utilize our watering, fencing, and machinery overhead.
Ultimately, growing our beef herd will allow us to put more manure and urine on the land. These organic inputs should stimulate the soil biology to build soil structure that allows the land to hold more water and generally be more resilient in our age of increasingly extreme weather events. Healthy land producing healthy food creates the conditions needed to meet our family’s quality of life goals, specifically living in a balanced environment doing meaningful work earning a living wage.