The Gretebecks put soil quality and animal welfare first.
If you want to take a tour of Becky Gretebeck’s farm, you’ll have to get past the llamas first.
“I keep them on the farm to guard the goats,” Becky says.
Goats? Yes, goats. “For fun, I raise dairy goats to show and sell,” Becky says. “They can cause trouble. You learn to put up good fences. Usually, you learn the hard way.”
Becky’s goats thrive here for the same reason her cows do: Becky and her husband Tucker are relentless about improving their farm’s soil quality. That, in turn, leads to lots and lots of healthy, organic pastures.
“Grass is what cows are built to eat, and they really love to be on fresh pasture,” says Tucker Gretebeck. “There is nothing better than organic dairy that comes from cows eating fresh grass and clover.”
The Gretebecks reside in Cashton, Wisconsin, just a few fields over from Organic Valley’s new offices. They live on the same farm where Becky grew up, which is about ten miles from the farm where Tucker grew up. Asked how she and Tucker decided to start farming on their own, she answers matter-of-factly: “We never quit farming.”
And they never really quit farming the same way, either, making the full transition to organic in 2006. “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,” Becky says. “[But] there’s still plenty to learn. We’re going to be experimenting for a while.”
Tucker agrees. “[Organic farming] is like going to college every day,” he says, laughing. “The cows have never been healthier.”
And with 100 acres of certified-organic pasture, they’ve never produced such high-quality milk, either. The Gretebecks are one of the few farming families to provide Grassmilk to Organic Valley. That means their cows are held to even higher standards than other organic cows.
“Grassmilk is the next evolution of organic,” Tucker believes. “[And] grass-based farming is a solution for climate change.”
Looking at her two kids playing on the same farm where she grew up, Becky pauses to reflect. “I think we’ll stay with what we are doing. It works.”