Dorothy’s Range, WI
April was not new to farming when she first connected to the Farm Service Agency, but she was new to the opportunity of farming her own land. April has made her home at Dorothy’s Range, surrounded by prairie, streams, oak savanna, and farm fields, just an hour southwest of Madison, and a few hours northwest of Chicago. With a background in environmental science and ethics, and managing a wholesale CSA, she had many tools in her toolbox. But when she moved onto 50 mixed acres that belonged to her partner, Steve, an ecologist, she began taking a larger view and questioning how this particular landscape might best be used.
Although April had been a vegetarian for years, it was a conversation with another female farmer friend about how pigs might compliment her vegetable sales, strengthen her anemic health, and benefit her landscape, that propelled her into giving hogs a try, and put her on the track she is today at Dorothy’s Range.
April works specifically with Glouchestershire Old Spots and Large Black hogs, breeds in danger of disappearing and chosen for their grazing quality, mothering skills, and delicious marbling. Spending her days working with animals is a bit different than her professional experience with vegetables. She says, “I feel accountable to the hogs, they’re something to get up for. And I get to share everything that is great about pigs with people.” Heritage pork is sold at the farm and local farmers’ markets, and piglets are sold to small farms as breeding stock and feeder hogs. When the opportunity to purchase 28 upland acres from a neighbor came up, she was excited at the prospect of owning her own land. “You know what to do,” April said, about the confidence that comes with years of farming. She had always checked in with Steve on decisions about the land before, and was excited about the prospect of streamlining and directing more of her farming processes.
“I remember thinking,” April said, “If I had this, I could grow barley for pigs, and provide habitat for Bobolinks, a rare
bird in this area!” To find assistance for purchasing the land, she called her local Farm Service Agency (FSA) office right away, after becoming aware of conservation programs through MOSES (the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Education Service).
As a woman within the first ten years of operation, according to the FSA she was both a beginning farmer and a socially disadvantaged farmer, which opened up additional opportunities. She found the staff that she worked with helpful and patient, and
appreciated that they were there to support her, and if she had questions while she filled out the applications, she had someone to ask right way. For April, the hardest part of the process was writing a business plan, something she hadn’t done before, but she thinks it was “timely, because they could help me dig into and understand my numbers, and good for my business in general.”
April is so grateful to have the structure of her business plan in place, the support of the loan and the staff in the office, and the fact that she can make a one-time payment or set up a monthly payment plan. “The FSA office understand the finances of farmers aren’t always like everyone else’s,” she notes. At Dorothy’s Range, April also invites customers to connect with her rural community and landscape through a farmstay, an affordable weekend getaway from big city Madison or Chicago and folks farther afield, where visitors can explore the trout stream, tall grass prairie, upland short grass prairie, burr oak savanna, sedge meadow, pig pastures and large gardens. Additionally, she and her partner, Steve, offer a variety of educational opportunities and farm-to-table events as a means of diversifying income streams and connecting people with rural livelihoods, healthy food, and strong land stewardship.