When the Witscher family purchased their farm in Osseo, Wisconsin, the land had sat abandoned for many years. But the Witscher’s saw a vision in the untouched landscape, and it was one of the main reasons the family found the acreage appealing in the first place.
The rich soil and its native grasses would eventually serve as the foundation for a certified organic dairy, provide the template for a successful grazing strategy, and make for a breathtaking backdrop for a popular television program.
"I had the cows and now with the fertile land, the ability to certify the farm as organic from its inception," says Inga Witscher, a fourth-generation dairy farmer and owner/operator of St. Isidore's Mead. "The pastures are filled with healthy, nutrient-rich and high-protein forage grasses perfect for our small Jersey herd."
The grass is not only a great renewable resource, she says, but the cows love it and that translates into the milk, and in turn, the cheese the Witscher family produces.
"When our cows graze, tiny flavor buds come through in the milk," Witscher explains. "It produces a clean flavor that you can ultimately smell and taste in the finished product. That makes every batch of cheese we make slightly different and unique."
Witscher credits the dairy breed, a concentrated grazing strategy and utilizing effective pasture management tools as part of her operation's success.
"Jersey cattle love to graze, so that helps," says Witscher. "Also, my rotational grazing strategy focuses on strip grazing in smaller sized paddocks, which is easily managed and also enables me to control the manure spread in each area. Lastly, I rely on
to create the individual paddocks and grazing perimeter."
Highly efficient and cost-effective, Tumblewheels act as a rolling fence post, allowing graziers the ability to move a fence line in a matter of minutes. Each wheel features six spokes and a unique center hub that maintains power while the fence is being moved. As the Tumblewheel turns, four of the six spokes are hot while the remaining two spokes touching the ground are dead.
"The cows are easily trained to respect the Tumblewheels," Witscher explains. "They know the wires are hot and know what is going to happen if they come in contact with it. They follow right behind me when I'm moving the wheels and get excited because they know they are getting a fresh pasture to graze."
also allows Witscher flexibility in her pasture management practice.
"I operate on approximately 30 day pasture cycles, and in the spring that changes to about 15 days," says Witscher. "During the spring I'll move the Tumblewheels every three-to-six hours, and in the late summer approximately every 12 hours. The Tumblewheels are so easy and effective; I can manage the farm completely different depending on the time of year."
Witscher's love and passion for agriculture and her interest in sharing her own farm practices as well as learning new management techniques became the cornerstone of a project that quickly grew beyond her dairy.
"There was a need for farmers to be heard," says Witscher. "I can't go out and reach every single consumer on my own. So let's do something with farmers on a larger scale and reach our consumers on a broader platform."
So together with her father, Rick, the television program, 'Around the Farm Table' was created.
"The show is dedicated to connecting consumers to small, thoughtful producers through storytelling, forgotten recipes and entertainment," Witscher explains. "The concept is two-fold: we wanted to connect consumers to farms and agriculture, while also connecting farmers to ideas and practices they can implement in their own businesses."
Witscher says the first episode featured a segment on humanely raised pigs. Within five minutes of the segment airing, the farmer received calls from top chefs from around the state wanting to purchase his sustainable meat for their customers. "Our idea worked," she says.
In fact, the idea worked so well, Witscher and her father are currently planning concepts and story ideas for the show's third season set to air late fall on Wisconsin Public Television.
Successful business ideas don't typically stem from luck, Witscher believes. "They grow from a clear vision, a deep rooted passion for the industry, utilizing the best tools, and a lot of hard work."
To learn more about the program 'Around the Farm Table', please visit their website at:
Click here to learn more about the
'Around the Farm Table's'
pasture management program.