If you travel about seven miles south of Milwaukee County's airport, you’ll find one of the last farms that is run full-time by the people who own and live on the land they farm. David Kozlowski and Sandy Raduenz own Pinehold Gardens, and have grown produce using organic methods for the past 23 years.
For Kozlowski, farming is not a hobby or a pastime, it’s a living. Our Full Plate series continues with one perspective of why people go into agriculture in the first place. Kozlowski came into full-time farming later in life, having initially been a "doubting Thomas."
Having previously worked for a local magazine in Milwaukee, Kozlowski felt he was doing something good - but farming took his sense of altruism a step further. His wife, Sandy Raduenz, had been running her own Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, for about ten years - with help from Kozlowski on the weekends. But as the CSA grew and the need to tend the farm became greater, he decided to join his wife out in the fields everyday.
"Being a person who came of age in the late '60s and '70s, I was completely steeped in peace and love and the environment - I never lost that," he says. "So when this opportunity came up, I saw a way of applying this idea about making the world a little better place, I know it sounds trite and so naive, but I really believe that this was a way to make the world a little better of a place."
Koslowski also finds great joy in connecting with Milwaukee's farming community." That sense of exchange, that sense of sharing experiences is all part of that sense of being a community among farmers."
The Milwaukee area's farming community from all walks of life - teachers, engineers, nuns. Just as their backgrounds are diverse, so are the personalities and the methods in which they farm. However, he says that there are some inherent commonalities farmers share in order to be successful in this work.
"You really need a flexible mindset...you need to be able to pick up bits and pieces of things that are working here, working there, and apply them to the work you're doing," explains Kozlowski. "You need to be in good health. This is hard work. This is the hardest work I've ever done in my life, and I've done some hard job in my experience as an adult working," he adds.
Although there are many ways people can get their produce today, Kozlowski says that farming has stayed the same at its core. The problems he faces today arise from being one produce option among many.
"Things have gotten a little hairier now," he says. "The weather is getting a little less predictable, markets have become a little less predictable, there are lots of options these days for people to buy their produce. So it’s a little riskier. That’s not something I expected to find as we go now 23 years into the business."
Kozlowski also adds that farming "is not simply putting things in the ground and selling them and feeling good about it." It is also a business that requires sacrifices to be made - no vacations and putting farm expenses as your top priority. But he says, no matter what, knowing the work they put into the farm produces the highest quality food is the most important goal.
"No matter what we do, no matter where the books look or what the weather is like, I will not compromise on the health of the food we produce or the health of the land we work on," he says. "Because all of that relates to the health of the community at large."
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