Dave and Jane Mulroy live and continue to earn a living on the family farm that was established in 1848, months before Wisconsin became a state.
The Mulroy clan settled in the area three years after leaving Ireland during the Great Potato Famine. The farm is located at N28411 US Highway 45, just south of the Sara Lee plant.
Initially, the farm comprised 120 acres but was downsized to 75 acres in 1969. Milking operations ceased in 1980 and beef cattle were raised until 2003. Today, the farm is on a path to self sufficiency again.
“Although the livestock is long gone, our fields are being diversified with plantings of hay, corn, vegetables and fruits,” Jane Mulroy said. “An heirloom apple, plum, and pear orchard has over 30 varieties of fruit species within the 230 trees planted, and this was our first year we had a crop.”
The Mulroy’s also harvest and sell 10,000-12,000 small square bales of hay each year largely to horse owners. “We’re one of the few farms that still do the small bales,” she added.
“For the last 10 years we’ve been renewing the farm. We are an organic/biodynamic producer of fruits, vegetables and hay crops. We support others whose initiatives carry on this mission.”
Mulroy explained that biodynamics takes organic farming to the tenth degree. “The beauty of biodynamics is that it focuses strictly on the soils,” she said. “You don’t worry about the plants, you get the soils in balance and then whatever grows in those soils will be in balance.”
Along with diversifying their crops, the Mulroy’s have added new features to the farm. “We’ve put in a greenhouse to grow tomatoes, lettuce, spinach and other produce. We’ve just plowed up another section of the orchard for vine crops like pumpkins, melons and squash. I really want to supply food pantries and homeless shelters, getting the nutrient-rich food there at a reasonable cost or donate wherever we can.”
Mulroy also makes numerous appearances at public, private and parochial schools for career day as the guest farmer, and has made presentations to home-schooled youngsters. “I share the blessings of working in tune with nature’s rhythms and the importance of being self sustaining,” she said.
Her “Know It, Grow It, Show It” program is expanding. “I have spoken to many garden clubs and host plenty of mealtimes for friends, family, neighbors and social groups; as food is a terrific tantalizer,” she said. “Growing most of my own food puts me at the advantage of always having a fresh, tasty supply, and having a warm, inviting place adds to the comfort and charm.”
The Mulroys have converted their circa 1848 farmhouse into a teaching center. “We will be offering gardening, cooking, canning, and food fermentation classes in addition to home arts programs (quilting, basket weaving, wreath making) to children and adults, who reside in our neighboring communities. “We will especially reach out to residents from nearby elderly housing units and women’s shelters,” she stressed.
“It is so rewarding to follow a dream and see it become reality,” Mulroy affirmed. “However, I struggle with making this enterprise viable, as this is the first time in all my life that I will be charging nominal fees for these programs.”
Her first class – Holiday Wreath Making – is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec 3. The cost is $24. Each crafter creates their own 26-inch fresh pine bough wreath with all the trimmings. To register, or receive more information, call 920-982-4744, or check out their Web site: www.iagardens.com.
“This seems to be a natural progression of all my life skills, experiences and hard learned lessons,” Mulroy said. “It is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. Like going over a large waterfall in a small kayak. I must stay afloat in order to share the thrill with those yet to come.”