Calling All Seasons Dairy a “family farm” doesn’t quite do it justice. Four generations and two sides of the family, plus friends and neighbors, contribute to the care of Becky and Tucker Gretebeck’s 300 acres in Cashton, WI. Becky calls it a “community farm.”
Becky and Tucker choose to sell their milk under Organic Valley’s Grassmilk label because their cows are 100% grass-fed. Over 100 acres of the farm are dedicated to pasture, with additional forages coming from the hay fields and special grasses such as sorghum, sudan grass, oats, and barley. The oats and barley are harvested as grasses before they form grain heads.
“The heart of the farm is the organic dairy,” says Becky. “We milk between 35 and 45 cows, with a total of about 115 head on hand at any given time. Our herd is mostly Red Holsteins, but we’ve been cross breeding with Normandy, a little bit of Swedish Red, and some Montbéliarde. We need cows that are good grazers.”
All Seasons is Becky’s home farm, and her parents still reside there. Tucker’s father and sister and her husband farm organically ten miles away in Westby on Tucker’s childhood farm. The two farms pool labor and machinery on occasion, and Tucker’s friends help frequently with field work.
Becky was delighted to have her grandmother return from her retirement in New Mexico to the farm. “My kids, Trent and Lana, have great-grandma, grandma and grandpa on the farm, and another grandma and grandpa down the road. It helps to have so many people to watch the kids.”
When asked how she and Tucker decided to farm, Becky responds, “We never quit farming. Both of us grew up farming and we each individually were involved in our families’ farms. Once we got married, we did things together. We grew tobacco, tried organic pullets, and many things before we began transitioning my family’s farm to be organic.” The farm was certified organic in 2006 and they bought and began milking cows that same year.
Becky, who graduated from University of Wisconsin - River Falls with a food science degree, had been working in insurance for seven years when they bought the cows. Tucker had taught middle school and coached baseball and football. They are gradually buying the farm from Becky’s parents. At present, they own 80 acres and rent the rest from Becky’s family and from neighbors.
Becky’s energetic and enthusiastic personality is reflected in the scope of projects on the farm. In addition to the dairy, a pick-your-own pumpkin patch means that every fall several thousand people pass through to get a pumpkin, enjoy the petting zoo, and have a wagon ride.
Becky, who also works full-time in product development at nearby Organic Valley headquarters “for something to do,” confesses to yet another hobby. “For fun, I raise dairy goats to show and sell. I have between 35 and 40 Nigerian Dwarf and Alpine goats. They can cause trouble. You learn to put up good fences. Usually you learn the hard way.” She shows goats at three to four shows a year. If a goat wins a good prize, it makes their offspring more valuable for sale.
The goats are joined by llamas. “I keep them on the farm to guard the goats. My old guard llama, Dusty, passed away at 20 years old, so I got several others. I have 5 llamas now. Dusty was extremely protective. During pumpkin patch season we’d have to put her away on a ridge so that she wouldn’t spit on the visitors!”
Becky enjoys the size of their farm and the range of activities. “I think we’ll stay with what we are doing for a few years. It works. The farming system we have now is very similar to what our parents and grandparents did; the difference now is we are entirely grass-based. There is still plenty to learn. We’re going to be experimenting for a while.”