The history of the farm dates back to the Great Depression. In the 1930s, my Great-Grandfather purchased the property at a sheriff’s auction when the previous owner lost it to bankruptcy. At that time, the farm sustained a rich variety of animals – cows, hogs, chickens, horses, and sheep.
Eventually, Ruth and Ernest Wegmueller – my grandparents, purchased the farm. They continued to raise a variety of animals, as well as provide a nurturing environment for their children. Grandpa Ernie, ever the conservationist, ushered in a number of environmental changes aimed at the preservation of farmland. He was one of the first farmers in the region to incorporate grass waterways, field diversions, and contour strips for the purpose of arresting soil erosion. He embraced technological change, replacing draft horses with sputtering, spasmodic two-cylinder tractors and mechanized equipment.
In the 1990s, John and Becky Wegmueller – my parents, purchased the farm. A visionary like his father, John grew the farm from an original 250-acre parcel, to the 500-acre operation of today. He embraced soil conservation and preservation, and transitioned crop production to “No-till”, thereby building on Ernie’s work. Simultaneously, John transitioned the dairy herd from Holstein to purebred registered Brown Swiss. Although Becky, my mother, had grown up in urban Milwaukee, she quickly fell in love with the serenity of farm life. Her contribution to the farm, although slightly less tangible, was no less profound – Becky loved the animals. She was a true nurturer, and provided tender care for the dairy herd, as well as her beloved saddle horse “Tootsie”.
Dan and Ashley Wegmueller currently own the farm, and are proud to be fourth-generation operators. Building on a multigenerational legacy of sustainability and conservation, Dan has resisted the tendency of agriculture to become larger and more industrialized. During the mid-2000s, Dan converted the dairy to rotational grazing, which offers fresh daily grass pasture to the dairy cows during the growing season. This promotes health and longevity in the herd. Ever the nurturer and visionary, Ashley promotes sustainable agriculture through her work with local farmers’ groups, markets, gardening, and her unconditional love of the cows, horses, and her donkeys Bojangles and Olly.
To this day, every so often a rusty, earth-caked horseshoe is unearthed while tending to the land. These relics, long discarded and forgotten, offer an immediate connection to a rich heritage, but also serve as reminders that we are mere stewards of the land, and caretakers of her creatures, both big and small. I am proud to continue my family’s legacy, and honored to continue a tradition of agriculture that is sustainable, compassionate, and creative.