A little help from my friends
Hard work helps the Goedes strike a balance between their farming traditions and modern-day technology.
Just before her 80th birthday, Marlene Goede’s son and grandson asked if perhaps it was time to move into town to enjoy her golden years.
Marlene’s response? “Absolutely not. That’s way too far to come do chores every morning.”
Fair enough. The Goede family has been farming the valleys of southwest Wisconsin for more than a century, and they’ve seen their fair share of setbacks. Through it all, they were able to fall back on close family bonds and on their neighbors—including one of the founders of Organic Valley, George Siemon, whose farm is across the road from the Goedes’.
Marlene’s grandson Joel was just a kid when his neighbor helped start Organic Valley. “I watched them start up with next to nothing,” he recalls. “Everyone thought they were kind of crazy. But thank goodness those guys had the vision and the guts that gave us the opportunity to farm the way we do today.”
Once the Goedes had completed their transition to organic, “Dad quit his town job to farm full time,” Joel says. But unlike most Organic Valley farm families, the Goedes have never been dairymen—instead, they raise pigs and chicken, and they take almost as much pride in their animal care as Marlene does in her work ethic. “When it comes to animal care,” Joel says, “we like to think we’re second to none.”
Today, this century-old farm includes computerized chicken coops and a sprinkler system to keep the pigs cool on even the hottest summer days. Even grandma Marlene would agree—working hard doesn’t mean you stop trying to work smart.