Keewaydin Farms is nestled in the rocky, rolling hills of the Driftless between Richland Center and La Farge, Wisconsin. There, Rufus Haucke and Joy Miller are building on this second-generation farm with their own layers of toil, trials and triumph.
Rufus grew up on this land, and has operated the farm on varying scales and models over the last 15 years, whereas Joy joined him in 2017, and yes—she appears to have brought much joy with her!
You’ll see that by following their Facebook page. Joy unleashes a range of experiences from their farm life in her creative project, “Dear Farm Journal.” She writes daily posts, always accompanied by multiple pictures and videos that truly look joyful.
This year, those glimpses of farm activity include exciting developments like a truckload of Purple Cow compost, a new-to-them delivery van, and —most recently— news that they’ve brought on two additional farm workers.
Joy said some of those investments were possible because of their incredibly popular CSA shares so far this year. “Our CSA has been going crazy,” she exclaimed.
Due to social distancing and concern about shopping in public markets, CSA programs have been thriving this spring, and like many local farms, their shares are selling out. Spring sold out early, and summer is now sold out as well, including the additional 50 shares they added. Their website even crashed a couple times.
Half-hog shares and egg shares sold out, so they arranged for more stock to scale up, including twice as many chickens. They’re still taking sign-ups for their fall and winter program, though— which runs through December 9th. They’re also starting to use an online sales platform that will allow people to order items without being a CSA member, and because they hired someone to do deliveries,
they can distribute their produce without Rufus having to lose a day of work on the farm.
That’s helpful, because he and Joy also have ‘other’ jobs. During the winter it became necessary to find off-farm work, so Rufus started working for the Driftless Café with friend Luke Zahm who was already a Keewaydin customer; Joy picked up two different jobs working on food system research and education. They’re part of this young, well-educated and driven cohort of farmers who have sought out the opportunity to farm. “I appreciate the chance to advocate and work on projects,” Joy reflected. “I went to MOSES (organic farming conference) this year for the first time, and I was literally in heaven. So many women! Awesome, strong, beautiful warriors of agriculture.”
Rufus and Joy currently have about three acres in production, while the whole farm is 200 acres including woods. They have four 30x50 hoop houses, with frames for two more. Keewaydin has ramped up activity levels in the past, and at one time had as many as 14 employees. Dwindling sales forced them to pull back. “We’re being selective as to where we’re putting the finances.”
Keewaydin’s institutional sales —to restaurants and hospitals—have definitely dropped. But they really appreciate their CSA customers and are grateful that more people are turning to small local farmers. “It’s nice to be able to connect with people looking for food. The fewer hands, the less travel, the better. But: why couldn’t more people recognize that this is a better way before they were forced into it?”
Some of their CSA members have been with them for 15 years, saying things like, “our kids have grown up on your vegetables!”
Joy has seen more appreciation of her “Dear Farm Journal” posts this season. She gets up early and starts each day by writing about the previous day. “I get a lot of really fun, positive feedback and encouragement from it,” she says. “It is my passion to tell the story.”
Is she using her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins? Of course—how could she not?
Joy sees Dear Farm Journal as farm anthropology, recording the tasks, weather, how she was doing emotionally—altogether not too far from her graduate project on socially responsible food and ethical consumerism. She hopes that more people are getting a sense that they know their farmer; know the struggles and the quality of the food, and the stewardship of the land. That they appreciate more and more that they live within a strong farming community through those CSA shares, and feel subjectively connected with the farm and invested in that food.
She hopes that young people will see what she’s doing; that it’s a beautiful, healthy career. “Driving a desk doesn’t have to be your future. I want to show the beauty of that to people.”
And she does.
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