The Story of Crane Crest Farm
In a way, the farm has always been part of me, like a dormant seed in the soil just waiting for the right conditions. My grandpa Melvin bought the land we’re on in the 1950s and sold the house to my dad, Miley, in the 1970s. When I came into the world in 1985, I landed in an old house on five acres of hill, grasses, and woods. It is an ordinary piece of land to most that pass by, but it is the land
where I set my roots, more beautiful to me than any other land if for no other reason than that it is the embodiment of home.
As a kid, my brother and I would spend countless hours in the woods, in the back pasture, up on the east hill… anywhere we found even the smallest reason to stop and play. Our Husky named Smoky mastered the wolf-dog role we asked him to play, while grandpa’s old tiling machine sitting out back served as our favorite jungle gym. It is no wonder, then, that my roots set deep and strong into this beautiful patch of land.
I left home after high school and went off to college. At Northwestern College, in Iowa, I studied History, enjoyed dorm life, and found a new best friend in Erin. After graduating, Erin married me, and we set out across the country for Seattle, WA. I hadn’t the slightest inclination to farm yet, but that dormant seed was sitting inside me, still waiting for the right conditions.
On a cool, damp October night in Seattle, the dormant seed found what it was looking for. At the time, Erin and I were living in Seattle, and we had gone to a church basement to watch the film Black Gold, which documents the global coffee market. Following the film, there was a group discussion, and the discussion meandered into topics like corporate agriculture and food security. I will never forget the two words uttered by one of the women: "Start gardening." It wasn’t the two words themselves, but the heaviness of the implications behind the directive. Thus, with those two words and the corresponding weight of the world, the seed germinated.
The vision has been developing slowly, little by little, like a timid, unsure seedling ever since that October night in 2008. When we moved to South Dakota, I read Buffalo for the Broken Heart and visited a nearby bison ranch, which pushed me further toward a specific vision of our future farm. Purchasing land seemed out of the question at the beginning of the journey; we simply didn’t have the money for something like that. Erin and I made the decision to move to Wisconsin where we could start small (on our 5 acres) and expand by renting more land as we were able.
The pull of farming may be unique for each individual farmer, but common threads run throughout this way of life. For me, I love the outdoors. I love the way my body feels at night after a day of physical, outdoor labor. I love knowing that my work is providing healthy food for my family and for our area residents, especially in a time where truly good meat can be difficult to find. I love that I can be a part of a farm-to-consumer relationship where the people that buy our food know and trust us and can see that we are raising animals in a healthy, happy way. I love knowing that my children will grow up with dirt under their fingernails and toenails, that they will know the land and the land will know them. Finally, I love knowing the land will be loved, cherished, and nurtured by the way we farm. While I won’t fault others for farming in their own way, our farm’s particular need for good soil, our dependence on plant and animal health, and our love for nature demand that we farm like this, and I wouldn’t do it any other way.