I think we knew intellectually that farming is hard. That owning a restaurant is risky. That the hospitality business can be, well, inhospitable. And yet, here we are. In the midst of a Wisconsin winter recovering from a variety of goat and chicken illnesses. With an empty B&B. And living in a great community with only 2,000 people…who are not big on going out to eat in sub-zero temperatures.
There have been many days of late that I’ve literally thrown up my hands and said “let’s just sell all of it” but can’t answer the question of ‘then what’? I was trying to recall our lives in the Pacific Northwest. I have always had the privilege of doing work that matters. I have advocated on behalf of seemingly intractable issues at the state and national level. Working for healthier, safer schools for all kids. Good stuff really. And although it was hard, I often saw that what I was doing made a difference. And of course LeAnn had a full massage practice for many grateful clients. Like most people we worked, we earned pay checks. We came home and gardened, did home improvement projects, had family time, walked the dogs, the usual. Occasionally we even had weekend getaways. Nothing felt like it was missing.
And then we moved to Wisconsin and bought a farm. Or what HAD BEEN a farm. Much of the land had been sold off so it was no longer large enough to support the dairy cows that were here initially. There are rocks…everywhere. I mean the house is made from them. There were outbuildings and barns, in poor repair without water access. Instead of vegetables (which we knew how to grow) we found ourselves with goats, laying hens, and eventually pigs and meat chickens. Animals got sick. Animals died. Animals had to be loaded and driven to butcher. Death and destruction. What was missing? Ease! Nothing felt easy.
So undeterred we opened a restaurant. With a strict commitment to sourcing all of our food locally (we were farmers that knew farmers, right?), we set about purchasing our ingredients. Back to that pesky ‘town of 2,000’ issue-although we were surrounded by farms and even lived on one, most of the food was heading to Madison or Chicago. Getting food delivered to New Glarus was a challenge. There were arrangements made for meet ups in Madison. For consolidated deliveries. For driving around and picking up produce on various farms. Although our little Village swells with tourists during the warmer months, Winter is slow enough to be scary.
Somewhere along the way we went from wanting to know where our food came from and how it was raised, to wanting to connect others to their food in meaningful ways. And it feels more important than the ‘make the world a better place’ work we used to do. Work that actually paid well and that we didn’t feel was lacking-at the time. But now we know differently. Our collective identity has become intertwined with the rolling hills, farms, and people that make up this community and those that come to visit…and then sometimes decide to stay and call this place home. These things feel important. And now something WOULD feel like it is missing without the farm, the restaurant, the farmstays--beyond the ease.
So for now I guess we burn more wood, turn down the thermostat. Eat out of the freezer that food we put up and the pork we raised. We prepare to take animals to butcher, and hope for late spring goat kids that are healthy. Maybe we plan a garden that will finally happen this year. We figure out how to be open more hours at the restaurant. We gather the confidence and belief that the farmstay will pick back up with a few tweaks in marketing. And swear that next Winter won’t be this bad.