Hans and Colleen Wolfisbergs’ 80-acre Edelweiss Dairy sits along the Nooksack River that flows near the Canadian border in Northern Washington... The dairy’s Swiss appellation is an homage to Hans’ childhood, growing up on a small dairy in his home country of Switzerland.
Hans came to United States by way of Canada 12 years ago, knowing he eventually wanted to own his own dairy. On his way toward that dream, he spent time working on a Vancouver Island farm and traveling. During one of his ski trips to Whistler, B.C., Hans met his wife-to-be Colleen -- on the slopes. After marrying, they lived in Switzerland for a short time, working on an organic farm.
Hans knew he wanted to farm in North America, so he and Colleen returned to the States and purchased property in Whatcom County in 1996. Since then, Colleen and Hans have kept themselves busy raising five boys, and taking care of their bustling 160-cow herd of Jerseys.
After a while, going organic was a natural progression for the Wolfisbergs. “I had been doing more and more shopping at the local food co-op, and conventional farming began to make less sense to me,” Colleen says. “We were both reaching a point of rethinking how we farm.”
On the farm, the Wolfisbergs were already doing things in an organic manner, according to Colleen. Hans had an interest in rotational grazing, which he became familiar with when he spent time in New Zealand. At home, they had always kept antibiotics to a minimum, and had used no hormones on their animals. All this added up to a fairly smooth transition to organic certification once they decided to make the commitment. Within a year’s time, they became fully certified. They got on the Organic Valley truck in 2005.
“We were one of the first Organic Valley dairy farmers in Whatcom County, so we received a lot of attention from different sources -- media, schools and other farmers,” Colleen relates. “It was further confirmation of a lifestyle that we were already living. It just made sense to be organic producers as well.”
Being able to raise a big family on their farm is truly one of the rewards of their profession, says Colleen, who home schools all of their children. “Organic farming grants an added advantage,” she explains. “It provides profit and sustainability, so the next generation can take over. It also shows our children that we are talking the talk and walking the walk, when it comes to an organic lifestyle.”