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Why I Farm

BECK'S WHY I FARM ROADTRIP: WISCONSIN FARMER, Wayne Edgerton

Published on Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Like many farmers, Wayne Edgerton has always appreciated being connected to the land. 

 

Although he grew up on a dairy in Wisconsin, he moved away for college and a career with the State of Minnesota, helping farmers implement conservation measures on their ground. “I lived in the Twin Cities for over 30 years.” He explains. 
 

 

After retirement, Wayne and his wife were excited to return to the Badger State and begin a farm of their own. "Farming brings me back.” Wayne smiles. “We have walnuts, hickory nuts, chestnuts, and the hazelnuts. We got into this business, basically because we wanted to do something with the land other than conventional agriculture. I didn’t want to be plowing it, and planting it and disking it every year. I wanted to get into some kind of permanent agriculture.”

In 2001 the Edgertons began planting hybrid hazelnut bushes, eventually filling about three acres. It takes six to eight years for each bush to get full grown. “I decided I wanted to plant something that I could eat, I could share with others, and that would be a good wildlife, soil and water conservation planting.” Wayne recalls. 

 

The management of an orchard looks much different than that of the neighboring more traditional row crops, but Wayne enjoys getting out among the bushes. His favorite job, mowing the orchard, must be done regularly all summer to keep competing plants under control. Each fall, Wayne and his wife hand pick, count and sort each nut. 

 

The challenges of an orchard are also unique. As the hazelnut bushes are getting established, mice and voles like to chew off the little plants. Over time, when the bushes are more mature, bucks rub their antlers on the spindly branches. “They’re not only breaking down the bush for this year, they’re killing all the flowers for next year.” Wayne explains.

 

 

Wayne doesn’t let the challenges discourage him. “It’s part of farming.” He laughs. Being able to hand deliver the organic nuts they’ve grown makes it all worth it. “I love it.” Wayne smiles. “I also like the idea of locally grown food and having something that we can sell to local folks for their restaurants or for their own eating enjoyment. People have really gotten into this local food movement, which I think is really cool.”

 

“I just love being tied to the land in some way. It gives us something to do in our retirement. Planting stuff, watching it grow, being excited every spring about something. It’s that excitement in the winter time you’re planning, and then it’s go, go, go in the spring, and then waiting for the harvest. Is it going to be good? Bad? You’re watching the weather. The whole appreciation of what’s going on in the world. It was the link to the land. That’s what I missed."

 

That’s why Wayne Edgerton farms.

 

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