Bethanee Wright, 26, grew up in Milwaukee. Her parents owned a hardware store.
“I could sell a hammer, but I didn’t learn anything particularly helpful for farming,” she recalls.
While an undergrad at UW Madison, she started interning at FairShare CSA Coalition, where she caught the farming bug. Dennis Fiser, a FairShare staffer at the time (now farming at Regenerative Roots in Jefferson, Wisc.) told her she could earn minimum wage while learning to farm.
“Getting paid to learn to farm!?! I thought, ‘I can do that.’ And then after a couple of years of working on other people’s farms, and then working as the manager of a CSA farm larger than mine, I gradually realized I could have my own farm.”
And she was off.
Bethanee’s now in her fourth season at her own farm, Winterfell Acres, where she cultivates 1.2 acres of organic vegetables and a 2-acre orchard. She moved her farm around on rented land until she and her husband Travis bought 43 acres last fall. She packs 90 CSA shares a week and sells wholesale to restaurants in New Glarus and to the Boys and Girls Club in Madison.
Today, Travis manages their 30 acres of woods and works for Epic, while Bethanee concentrates full time on her farm and reinvests all her profit back into her farm.. In the past year, they’ve built farm infrastructure (greenhouse, hoop house, equipment shed, a well, driveway, etc.) and are nearing completion of their house. They once lived in a tiny house (125 square feet!) so their new home, while smaller than most at just 1100 square feet, feels comfortably spacious.
Bethanee talks about her path to farming, her spiritual connection to her land, her love of community supported agriculture, and her two great Pyrenees ‘farm companions,’ Thoros and Baela. Her farm will be a stop this year on Bike the Barns, scheduled for Sept. 17.
Your family food dollars are Little Green Soldiers for Good. Spend them directly with your local farmers via CSA or at the Madison farmers’ markets. Check out the Wisconsin Farm Fresh Atlas for restaurants featuring local food, farm listings, and farmers’ market info across Wisconsin, or Local Harvest for listings nationwide.
5 Minutes on the Farm won a 2016 Excellence in Journalism award from the Milwaukee Press Club.
Photographs by Julie Garrett. Banjo by Cathryn Herlihey. Logo by Katie Hess.