Why I Farm Roadtrip: Kat Becker and Tony Shultz
Jan 30, 2017
Tucked between conventional dairy farms in north central Wisconsin is a small farm that Kat Becker and Tony Shultz have made their home. They farm for many reasons. “Our farm is called Stoney Acres Farm. We’re a certified organic, third generation family farm in Marathon County.” Kat smiles.
When Tony was growing up on the farm, it was a 50-cow dairy. “His parents sold the cows right before he headed off to college and then we moved back in 2006 and kind of reinvented the farm.” Kat explains. “He grew up and had romantic notions of the family farm that he always returned to and gained kind of a political consciousness about agriculture in college.”
“My grandfather homesteaded this place.” Tony explains. “He sold it to my father, and then he sold it to me. This is the American dream. So, that’s one of the reasons I farm, because it’s the legacy of my family.”
Kat’s introduction to agriculture began a little differently. “I’m originally from New York City. I got interested in agriculture through questions about food access and urban food policy.” She recalls. “When I was in high school I volunteered for an organization that distributed meals to people that didn’t have enough food. In New York most of those people are working people, so it’s not just homeless folks. I was interested in larger agricultural policy and then along the way also did some farm work. I got more and more interested in farming during my undergrad and graduate education.”
Today, locals enjoy vegetables from Stoney Acres Farm in their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes, and at a few local farmers markets. Every Friday, for six months out of the year, the family hosts Pizza on the Farm. “We grow everything that goes on the pizzas from the wheat, to the meat to the vegetables, everything except for the cheese, which we buy locally. We make all of the sauce ourselves. Those are the main components of what we do, but we’re really diversified. We have wheat, we have beef cows, we have pigs that we raise for sausage. We grow about 12 acres of mixed vegetables.”
“Everything on the farm, we sell within a half an hour of the farm.” Tony says. “I’m farming because I want my produce to be people’s food and I want that direct connection with them. I sell it to people and they talk to me about how they cook it and they tell me about the celebrations they’re using it at, and the dinners that they’re making with it. So, I farm for community as well.”
Tony feels good about his three children growing up in this community, surrounded by family working on the farm, with space to roam. “I’m glad that I was connected as a child to this space. They are too. That’s another powerful legacy moment. It can be stressful to farm with kids, but it helps that they are cute and the most interesting people I know.” He smiles.
"I didn’t grow up on a farm but I farm now because I feel like I can’t imagine what it would be like to not go through the seasons.” Kat reflects. “It’s beautiful, challenging and probably the best place ever to have kids. My kids have an awesome place to run around. I grew up in a big city and so I think there are some really important, amazing, and valuable things about that, but I think my children have a level of personal responsibility and freedom that most children don’t have. They can bike wherever they want, they know every vegetable variety, they understand where meat comes from, and they’ve seen us cut up animals. So I feel like they have this incredibly deep connection to food, but also to the seasons and the earth. Those are the things that I value the most."
That’s why Kat Becker and Tony Shultz farm.