Front Porch Pets moved its operations to the small rural town of Wild Rose, WI in 2012. Excited by the seventeen-acre parcel we now owned, we began our journey to adopt the concepts of permaculture, sustainability, and regenerative agriculture to our little spot on the earth. A mixed pine and hardwood forest, a meadow and an old quarry were our beginnings. We started “farming” by adding a 30-foot by 72-foot greenhouse adjacent to our building so we could reuse the waste heat from our dryers, our first permacultural effort. An underground tunnel transfers heat from the dehydrators through a heat exchange system that keeps the greenhouse growing strong through our frigid Wisconsin winters. To further use the waste heat, we added an aquaponics system growing greens and herbs along with fish by utilizing the waste heat to keep the water warm. Today this is the source of many of the herbs and greens we use in our dog and equine treats, our exceptional chicken scratch, and as fodder for our many critters that live among us.
Surrounding the greenhouse, we added row after row of veggies and greens, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, elderberries and Aronia berries. We planted some fruit trees: apple, pear, plum, and cherry. We continue to add more fruit and nut trees each year.
Soon we had so much fruit and vegetables we installed a commercial refrigerated salad station in the lunchroom, so our staff can make themselves delicious salads. We added a weekend farmer’s market out front of the location, too. Operated by honor system.
Then came the chickens, ducks and guinea hens. The ducks kept slugs out of the garden, the guineas are super effective in eliminating ticks from our woods and fields and make wonderful yet noisy alarm systems for any predators that get into our space. The eggs are for the staff to enjoy in quiches and breakfast burritos. There’s usually a big bowl of hard boiled eggs in the fridge too!
We started to get pretty good at what we were doing so we added a nearby rundown apple orchard to our “homestead.” We are restoring to health 120 trees of ten different varieties. After sweet potatoes, apples are the most purchased product we use. We make apple sauce and cider to add to our treats right here in our commercial kitchen.
We rescued three goats, a mule and a pony. So, we built a beautiful stable by re-using the many pallets we get from the constant sweet potato deliveries. It is sheathed with scrap log ends from a local pine mill. Very homey.
There are lots of Scottish Highland and Belted Galloway cattle in the area, and we have grown fond of their shaggy looks and great temperaments. They are very hardy and seem even happier when the weather turns to winter. We had to add a few so we brought in Althea, Gracie, and Faith, three adolescents who were the beginnings of our present herd, now over twenty. The summer of 2018 we had two calves, Thorena and Houdini. Houdini was so good at hiding when born, it took us two days to find him. He was in tall grasses right in front of us yet we couldn’t see him. Tricky critter. In 2019 we had a total of 10 new calves, some Highlands, some Belted Galloway and some a mix of the two. Good job Houdini, alll grown up!
Following the pasturing techniques of Joel Saladin, the Salad Bar Beef man, we now pasture chickens for eggs and meat, plus turkeys and guineas, three days behind our cattle pasture rotation, which gives the birds a plethora of bugs, worms, and grasses to scratch through. Our chickens get to be real chickens, no confinement here. Just beautiful pasture.
Seventeen acres was not enough space to do everything we wanted, so we added a thirty-acre abandoned farm to our acreage. Complete with a one-acre pond, hardwood forest and pasture, we call it Front Porch Farms. Being in a mid-Wisconsin sand county and having been abandoned for years, there is much work to be done to regenerate the soil and pastures.
With the demand for real food for our pets and animals, the need for food free from chemicals, antibiotics and hormones, no spray and free from GMOs, we know we are on the right path. Though not registered organic, we follow the same principles.
As of 2019, we have 2 acres of rich soil divided into 15, 60-foot by 60-foot plots. This is used to grow the vegetables we use in our treats and food. We make our compost and use compost “tea” made from the wastewater of the aquaponics system. Each step of the way we consider the lay of the land, the needs of the soil, and even the local wildlife that live all about us as well as on the farm. We take special responsibility for our role in this web of nature, as we have two sets of nesting bald eagles, red foxes, deer galore, a bear or two, wolves, a variety of smaller critters, a return of both Sandhill and Whooping Cranes, and a class-A trout stream along our north fence-line. We use no poisons or injurious traps. Instead, mostly electric fencing and co-mingling of animals prevents much predation.
We have goals of adding pet friendly “glamping” to our farms as well as on- farm classes on feeding your own pets and animals. Keep an eye out for the many changes and improvements we are making to providing our customers and their companions with truly down-on-the-farm real food.
Welcome to Front Porch Farms.
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