This week we hear from Jillian and Adam Varney at Small Family Farm and CSA in La Farge, Wisconsin. Worker share Daniel Durham and long-time employee Joe Orso share their thoughts on the community aspect of Small Family Farm. For photos of their farm, please visit their website’s photo gallery.
JILLIAN: “Farming looked like kind of a lonely thing for one man on a tractor and a thousand acres. CSA farming looked so alive! The community, all the people who were on these farms, handling the food, in the field, it just looked so beautiful. It was very romantic. It was very romantic getting into it. And it does still look very beautiful, but the reality is, it’s very hard work. Luckily, we’re hard workers and we love it.
“I did not grow up on a farm. I grew in Dubuque, Iowa. I was attracted to farming because of the athleticism of it — the physical activity — I just loved getting out there. I started working on farms because I wanted to be around organic food. I was a young woman, and organic food was expensive, so I just started working on organic fruit and vegetable farms across the country. I just loved being around the bounty. So I started working on farms and then ultimately fell in love with farming. My dad had a garden growing up, but there were no farmers in my family at all, really.
“I knew I wanted to farm but knew I couldn’t do it by myself, either. Adam and I met on his brother’s farm. I came to work for his brother at the time. I had experience working on big farms, medium-sized farms, and he had a really little CSA at that time — the Bad Axe [Farmers] Alliance — there were three farms growing for one CSA. So we met on his brother’s farm. And I said, ‘I want to farm.’ We had been there for two years and it was kind of time for us to move on and leave the farm. So I said, ‘Do you want to buy a farm together?’ We had already been dating for about a year. He said, ’Yeah, I’ve always wanted to be a farmer.’ So I said, ‘This is it!’
“We took out an FSA loan. It was still in my name; I was still the primary farmer. He worked a full-time job off the farm at Organic Valley for the first seven years. Then when our second child was born, Aliza, two years ago now, he finally quit his job. The farm was at a place where we could afford to have him stop working there. Now we’re making 100 percent of our income off the farm. It’s really great. We’re happy with where we’re at now. We’re comfortable. We have a good thing going on.”
Please visit the Dane County Farmers’ Market to see what’s for sale at local farmers’ markets this week. Wisconsin’s Farm Fresh Atlas lists farmers’ markets, u-picks, and CSA farms across Wisconsin.
Podcast credits: Production, reporting & photography by Julie Garrett; theme music by Cathryn Herlihey; 5 Minutes on the Farm logo by Katie Hess.