FREE Reservations for the KCF EARLY BIRD FARM TOUR, NOW!
Saturday July 28, 2012:
The Hass family is deeply involved in the history of CROPP Cooperative / Organic Valley and very active in the ongoing story today.
Al’s dad, the late Ray Hass, was one of the founding farmers of the co-op. Ray was one of those common sense dairy farmers whose family ownership of land in Harmony Township Viroqua, Wisconsin, dated back to 1885. By the early 1970s, Ray had veered away from conventional farming when he had the ultimate epiphany. After spraying a popular herbicide, Atrazine, on his corn crop, the spray mist drifted into Hass’s nearby alfalfa crop and killed it.
“That was it for us,” Al recalls. “We’ve been organic ever since.” But he was subjected to plenty of teasing in the agricultural classes in high school when he submitted a project on organic agriculture. Al remembers kids saying, ‘That’s stupid, you can’t do organics,’ “but I had an open-minded instructor who encouraged me. And I guess it wasn’t too serious, since I was elected president of my FFA chapter.”
Shortly after taking over half-ownership of his family farm, Al and Lisa got married in 1987, had three daughters and committed themselves to organic farming. But a few years later, Al and Lisa had to make a major change in their lives that ultimately committed them to organic agriculture and its future in broader and deeper ways.
Al had been hit hard by the classic dairyman’s ailment, bad knees, complicated by arthritis. The Hass’s could not afford to build a new milking parlor designed to reduce the constant bending farmers are subjected to when milking their cows twice a day. The girls were young at the time and had no idea whether or not they wanted to go into farming in the future. Al and Lisa sold the herd first. Finally they made the gut-wrenching decision to sell the farm itself.
The only thing that made this painful decision easier to bear was going to work for their cooperative in a different capacity than their previous one of farmer-owners. Al became a Regional Coordinator for the cooperative’s dairy pool, a position that enabled him to visit Midwest farms and commune with fellow dairymen on a regular basis. Lisa also came to work in Pools shortly afterward.
Meanwhile, their daughters grew up and some rather amazing things happened. Their eldest, Kathryn married Jed Tracy who, as fate would have it, has a serious yen for farming. Their middle daughter, Tammy, also developed a single-minded desire to farm. The youngest daughter, Megan, also enjoys being on the farm and helping out. When a 196-acre dairy farm just north of CROPP headquarters came up for sale, Al and Lisa made their bid for the future and bought the place so that the kids could get started. Tammy wanted in on that, and now she and Jed work on the farm and receive assistance from Megan. Jed and Kate live on the farm with their two little ones: Jackson and Kelsey.
Organic Valley Family of Farms ©2013