Agriculture had its way with Mike and Beth from the start, since they were both raised on small dairy farms. However, neither of them thought they would ever have their own farm.
Mike and Beth met at the local farm store where Mike worked and Beth had been sent on an errand by her father. The rest, as they say, is history. They married and continued through their college courses. As graduation approached in the spring of 1991, Mike’s father, Ross, raised the idea of partnering with Mike on a new dairy. Mike figured that was a great way to get started. The family found a dairy farm in Young Ward near Logan, Utah, that is Wangsgard Willow Dairy today.
Mike and Ross started moving the cows from the home farm up to the new dairy before Mike had even finished school and before the previous owners had moved out. “I’d milk cows at 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. and then go to school. The other owners would milk at 3 a.m. and 3 p.m. so we wouldn’t overlap. They had pasture here, but they hadn’t used it. So we put our cows out on the pasture right away. Dad had always grazed the cows in the summer, so we started rotational grazing by planting the corn field into grass and then things progressed from there.”
In 2000, the family expanded their operation by purchasing another 300 acres in Cornish, about 20 minutes away from the home farm in Young Ward and where parents Ross and Neva now live and take care of the daily chores. On this land, the family raises the feed needed for the dairy herd—alfalfa hay, barley and safflower—and graze their young stock.
The home farm where Mike and Beth live with their six children is dedicated to the dairy and, of course, pasture. They’re able to graze their 120 Holsteins from mid-April through early October most years. The milking herd gets a grain supplement of barley and safflower year-round.
“Looking back,” Mike says, “we can see that our farming philosophy put us on a natural path leading to the production of organic milk. In 2006, along with another farm, we became the first producers of organic milk for Organic Valley’s Rocky Mountain regional pool.”
The Wangsgards live and farm in northern Utah’s beautiful Cache Valley, so-named by mountain men like Jim Bridger who stashed (cached) their goods and furs there until time to rendezvous for trading. The Wangsgard’s farm is flanked by mountains towering 4,000 feet above the valley floor. Winters can be cold, with temperatures occasionally dipping to 20 below. In summer, temperatures can hit one hundred degrees for a few days, but on their grazing land, Mike says, they flood-irrigate, which cools the soil and keeps the pastures luscious and palatable to the cows in spite of the heat. In a part of the West that is typically parched and where water is everything, the Wangsgards have access to water from the Logan River. It’s good quality run-off from snow-melt in the nearby Wasatch Mountains.
“Raising our six children on the farm has been wonderful,” Mike says. The children have helped out on the farm since they were tykes. Their oldest daughter, Marylynn is married now, and she and her husband Todd still help out whenever they can. Bruce is serving a mission, and Mitch, Bonnie, Mark and Becky are still at home and pitching in when they’re not in school.
“We realize that being involved in our community and helping to promote agriculture is important,” Mike says. Beth volunteers in the school and community, and Mike is a board member of the Cache County Farm Bureau. The family also hosts the Farm Bureau Farm Field Days event every spring on Wangsgard Willow Dairy, when 500 second graders from around the valley come to spend the day and learn about farming. “We are also very involved in scouting and serving in our church,” Mike adds. “Beth and I have truly been blessed to have an opportunity to do what we love, where we love it, and how we love it.”