Organic Farmers Association Members' Wisconsin Farm Focuses on Animal Welfare
This article originally ran in the spring 2018 issue of New Farm Magazine, the magazine of Organic Farmers Association. All OFA members receive a complimentary issue of New Farm annually. Click here to sign up!
MEET CHAZ AND MEGAN SELF
East Troy, Wisconsin
Farm size: 390 acres
Products: Milk, beef, chicken, eggs, turkey, pork
First year farming: 2010
Organic certification: 2010
OFA membership: 2016
Learn more: grasswayorganics.com
Why did you become farmers?
Chaz: I was a diehard vegan city kid, but I once saw a horrible video about livestock abuses. It inspired me to earn a farm management degree from a local college.
Megan: I did not grow up on a farm either, though I spent time at my uncle’s farm near Thorp, Wisconsin. I wanted my family to eat good food, including meat and dairy, but I also wanted to have a low impact on the environment.
Why did you choose to be certified organic?
Chaz: “USDA Organic” is the only label that truly regulates animal health and environmentally friendly practices.
Megan: Organic [farming] was just normal farming in my grandfather’s day, and it still makes sense. Plus, the USDA label is something that customers can relate to.
What are the toughest challenges that you face as organic producers?
Chaz: Like for many farmers, it’s cash flow. It is hard to watch milk prices dip and dip as [production] costs constantly rise.
Megan: Educating the consumer on why organic food costs what it does and hoping people value it the way you do.
What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned since you started?
Chaz: We now completely understand that farming is a lifestyle, not an occupation. And it truly tests your patience.
Megan: There is a difference in your daily routine when [the temperature] is 90 degrees [Fahrenheit], 40 to 70 degrees, 30 degrees, 15 degrees, and minus 5 degrees.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being organic farmers?
Chaz: For us it is watching all our babies grow up next to mom and one day come into the parlor to help with milking.
Megan: When you enjoy what you do, you have moments thinking “Shouldn’t I be doing real work?” This is our life, not just our work.
Why did you decide to get involved with Organic Farmers Association?
Chaz: We have seen so many stories of organic farmers bending the rules with little to no care about the integrity of the organic seal. All they want is the market price. We would like to see a “tightening of the belt” on [organic] regulations.