Paul Bickford started farming his land as a confinement dairy in 1978 with 250 cows. His family had a dairy in the Sauk Prairie area, and Paul’s father helped him get started in Ridgeway. In the early nineties, when the confinement model started failing, Paul was among the first dairymen to establish pastures and start rotational grazing with 350 cows. Due to issues with stray voltage, Paul sold the cows in 2011 and left dairying, plowed under pastures and planted organic corn and soybeans.
John and Halee met cooking at one of New York City’s most beloved restaurants, Prune. Food was what brought them together, and it is what they continue to be passionate about as farmers. After spending a combined ten years in New York City, they made the leap and moved back to John’s home town of lancaster, wisconsin. they were lucky enough to have an opportunity to run a breakfast and lunch cafe called “dewey’s” on the square, at john’s home farm they learned how to bottle feed calves that needed a little help, grow enough vegetables to supply their restaurant, and tried their hand at growing edible dry beans, open pollinated corn, and wheat.
when it was apparent that halee and john, and their growing family, didn’t have a clear future farming family land, halee went on craigslist and searched for “organic” jobs in the madison area. there she found Paul’s ad, which read: “I am seeking a forward-thinking individual or couple to join my 950-acre organic farming operation … Ethics and trust are a cornerstone of organic farming and are important to my operation. I want to share my 40 years of farm experience with someone who is willing to work to improve my farm.”
as paul likes to say, you can teach skills, but you can’t teach nice. fortunately, he and john settled into a comfortable working relationship and john and halee are working toward taking over ownership of paul’s farm and business. Paul’s son Levi works on the farm, as well as John’s father Duane Wepking. It is a multi-family, multi-generational operation.
coming from a background in restaurants, john and halee have a unique perspective that allows them to cross the line between farmers and chefs. with paul’s mentorship and access to this beautiful and productive land, Together they are committed to farming the land organically, and are producing not only quality feed for organically raised animals, but are also committed to growing delicious and nutritious staple foods like milling grains and dry beans.