(WFRV) – With no farming experience, our featured family this week set off on a conservation journey. Guided by Aldo Leopold’s essay, “The Good Oak” they found themselves with a new business, caring for animals and the land.
“I did not grow up farming. My grandparents owned the farm just down the road here. By the time I came around they were long retired” explains Aaron Pape.
At first, Aaron’s dream was to also retire on his grandparents’ land. But, after pursuing an education in land conservation he realized that farming is one of the biggest ways to make an impact on natural resources.
“When you get into farming you want that connection to land, the idea of the farming lifestyle. None of this gets to exist if you don’t have a product to sell. You gotta make money at it. Its been interesting diving into marketing, why do people want to buy from us. People like our story. We have beautiful animals on beautiful land, and people want to be connected to where their food comes from” he says.
Pape family pastures ran 100 acres this year, home to 42 head of cattle, a dozen pigs, and 700 chickens.
Aaron explains “Right away we got pigs, short turn around our very first season we had 3 pigs to sell. Bought 10 cattle mixture of cows and steers, and so we got a one year leap on cattle cycle two years to finish, had yearlings so next year we had cattle to sell. For new grazers, I highly recommend buying a complete herd, cows, calves, and yearlings so you are rocking and rolling for cash purposes”.
The rotational grazing method allows the animals to spread their own manure.
“It is a beneficial system for animals” explains Erin Pape. “They work together to make the land healthier. When we move the chickens, they rummage through the cow patty to find the bugs that are there and help break it down, they are getting protein. With the chickens, the reason we love them, as we move them in the chicken tractor, they spread their manure. The grass is the greenest that the cows want to go for”.
Aaron has also continued his job as a farm business instructor at NWTC. A love of learning, steering him down the path to owning his own herd.
“We did not have experience raising cattle, learning about stockmanship, low-stress handling, working in a squeeze chute all that stuff that was a bit of a learning curve,” he says.
His wife, Erin works as a nurse practitioner and carries her medical expertise into this field. “First and foremost I am the cow health advocate,” she says. “We do the herd check, everyone looking ok, do they have access to water today, making sure everyone gets vaccines. I like looking at cattle, developed a good eye for cattle”.
Part of that care includes access to quality feed in the winter.
“We bale graze so we lay them out in a grid system, leap from bale to bale in winter, provide them a windbreak made out of pallets and snow fence. But, they are tough critters. Beef cattle get a big shaggy winter coat. Don’t develop respiratory issues or foot problems outside” Aaron says.
The meat is processed just down the road from the farm, at Pelkin’s in Crivitz.
“Overwhelmingly people love the flavor, something different, not what you get in the stores. Food tastes better when you know where it comes from. Pastured pork, there is nothing like it out there”
And nothing like the satisfaction this couple finds in growing their dream on family land. “After we get something done we always turn to each other, shake hands, and say success. It is a nice thing to feel like you are accomplishing something together it is good for our marriage and we have a lot of fun together being able to do this” Erin says with a smile.
Pape family pastures butchers seasonally, in summer and fall. If you are interested in reserving meat visit https://papefamilypastures.com/home/