Lisa Shirek, of Paint Rock Farms, located in Amherst Junction, WI, was kind enough to let me dig a little information out of her about her life on the farm and the work that goes into farming and local foods. Here are her responses.
How did you get started in Farming?
I was born into farming really. My parents bought a small 10 acre hobby farm when I was three but most of memories and experience was on my grandparents dairy farm. They hand milked about a dozen cows before they got fancy and got the milking machines. They had hogs, chickens, cows, ducks, and geese. It was a true heritage farm and I loved every minute of it.
I also was very involved in my high school’s FFA group and worked many summers making hay with my grandparents and neighbors.
Mike and I bought our farm in 2008 and decided that we wanted to raise our girls the way that I was with a strong work ethic and a love for the environment. It grew from there
What part of farming & local foods are you most passionate about? Explain.
There is so much that I am passionate about but mostly the economics and health benefits of it. When you can see the full economic impact of buying local within the community and how it comes full circle it’s quite rewarding. As a holistic health practitioner there truly isn’t anything better than knowing where your food comes from and how it was raised. I believe strongly in growing/raising things organically. While we are not certified it’s all about knowing your farmer.
What is something that you wish the general public could know about the benefits of local farms/foods?
I wish the general public knew what it really takes to raise food and the cost involved to pay a farmer a living wage. We talk about fair trade in other countries but fail to realize that we have those same issues in rural America on small family farms. When we support small farmers the benefits go beyond the customers’ plate. Buying local keeps small farms thriving. In Wisconsin the average age of a farmer is 57 and continues to rise. Keeping young small farmers in business keeps our communities strong and ‘good’ food plentiful.
What does your farm provide that is unique to the rest of Wisconsin/other farms in your area?
Our farm specifically raises heritage breeds. By that, I mean traditional livestock breeds that were raised by our forefathers. These are the breeds before industrial agriculture became a mainstream practice. These breeds were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to the local environment and they thrived under farming practices and cultural conditions that are very different from those found in modern commercial agriculture.
Traditional, historic breeds retain essential attributes for survival and self-sufficiency, fertility, foraging ability, longevity, maternal instincts, temperament, ability to mate naturally, and resistance to diseases and parasites. These traits make them an excellent breed for small farms and homesteads.
Could you give us a typical day (in general terms) for the work that you do?
Lots happens on the farm daily from mending fences, clean coops and refreshing bedding but the typical day is a morning and evening feeding of the hogs, sheep and birds of all kinds.
Each hog gets a scoop of locally grown and ground grains from our small feed mill, fresh veggies and hay during the winter. The sheep also get fresh veggies and hay during the winter and graze all summer. Chickens, ducks and turkeys free range both summer and winter with free choice grains.
Lots of compost accumulates during the winter so every spring we have loads of FREE compost for those who are willing to come and get it!
What are your top five things that you are grateful for when it comes to your life, farming, and the like?
I am grateful for having a wonderful partner, Mike Beacom, who works long hard days to provide for our family. He works outside of the farm as a self employed writer amongst other things. His dedication to providing for our family is tremendous. I’m so thankful for him. Without Mike’s love and support I wouldn’t be able to farm. My two wonderful girls, Jada and Isis – who sometimes need a little encouragement – help with the everyday chores on the farm. Jada leads most of our kids activities and Isis always brings laughter along. They both have such compassion for the animals and care for them like siblings. I couldn’t have asked for to better helpers!
I am grateful for our support from old and new friends. It truly has become a family within our community and I couldn’t be more honored. You all make it possible not only for us but for everyone that they are committed to supporting in the local food movement. We appreciate that!
I am grateful for organizations like the Wisconsin Farmers Union who have fought for the farm bill and supported family farms for more than 100 years through cooperative endeavours and continue to give back to their members.
And finally, I am honored to have had such inspiring grandparents. They have molded me into the person I am today by teaching me how to live off the land, treat the animals we care for and continue our family’s traditions of preserving our food. Both incredibly hard workers, with honor, integrity and pride. I love them more than they will ever know.
Thank you, Lisa, for sharing a part of your work, life, and family history with the local foodies! Lisa’s responses gave me goosebumps thinking about the passion that is in this kind of work and lifestyle. For more information on Painted Rock Farms, visit http://www.mypaintedrock.com.
Sending all Love, Light, & Joy over the Holidays,