2010...On left, Brandon, Tammera and little Gabriel; on right, Caleb (in back), Alek and Micah.
History of Dominion Valley Farm
The homestead and original barn were built approximately 1900.
Though Brandon has had dreams of farming since 3rd Grade, Tammera had grown up on a family farm where they raised chickens for personal consumption. In January of 1997 we purchased what is now Dominion Valley Farm from the couple who had called it home for the previous 60 years.
Since 1997 the fields have been prepared for the pastured poultry endeavor. With a vision of good quality pasture in mind, many different types of grasses and legumes were started.
By spring of 1998 the fields were finally ready for our initial batch of chickens. We began slowly with only 100 chicks and with processing equipment that accommodated only two birds at a time - talk about a painstaking process!! The first chickens were sold just to family and friends. With only 100 for sale, we quickly ran out of fresh product - with our customers coming back for more.
Spring of 1999 was time to gear up for a more intense season of raising pastured poultry. A total of 500 chickens were raised and processed during the months of May to November. A new task was undertaken with embarking on turkeys. A total of 40 birds were raised and sold fresh just days prior to Thanksgiving, averaging 17-22 lbs. after 19 weeks (13 weeks on pasture).
In late summer of 1999, the Lord provided us with industrial strength, "butcher-shop quality" processing equipment allowing us to process six birds at a time. What a blessing this was!
Fall of 1999 - Time to reconstruct the timber barn that was dismantled and moved 18 months prior. With the help of loving family, friends and neighbors, the task was completed. The last few processings of 1999 were done with the new equipment in our new poultry processing center.
Spring of 2000 brought us to another year of pastured poultry raising and with the decision of how many birds to raise. With the success of the past year behind us and a growing customer base, we made plans for 1000 chickens and 75 turkeys. This has required us to process every three weeks, thus providing fresh poultry to our customers on a regular basis. Tammera's pregnancy throughout the summer made processing on her end a little more challenging, but we were blessed with a third beautiful boy, Micah, just weeks prior to Thanksgiving.
2001 - What an exciting year ahead for Dominion Valley Farm! We now have our own herd of Galloway beef cattle on pasture and look forward to providing all-natural beef to our customers in the next few years. Pork is also on the horizon as we will be raising a handful of piglets next season to be available in the fall. As far as the poultry portion of the farm, this year we are doubling our business to raise over 2000 chickens and 75-100 turkeys. We have also decided to move the most time-consuming end of the poultry business off-site and have contracted with a state-inspected plant to do all of our processing - under our close supervision as we want to maintain the highest quality finished product. Please go to the Poultry Info section for more details on processing.
2002 - FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!! It's hard to believe we have been raising poultry for five years now, and it's wonderful to see all of the changes and growth that have occurred. Our small herd of beef cattle is slowly growing as we look forward to tasting the fruits of our labors in a couple of years. The off-site processing of all of our poultry has been a much-needed, time-saving process that worked out beautifully this last year. We look forward to continuing the relationship we have with the state-inspected processor. PORK will be on pasture in July and will be available in time for Christmas! Our goal is to begin something NEW each season, and this year will also be DUCKS. We are raising Muscovy ducks naturally on pasture, as we do all of our animals. Muscovy ducks are not as "fatty" of a bird as other breeds. Give them a try!
2003 - We're starting out a little later this year as we are anticipating the birth of our fourth son (Tammera insists this takes precedence over the poultry!) We have a full plate once again with chickens, turkeys, ducks, pork and our first year to have beef available.
2004 - What’s new in 2004? Pastured Tamworth hogs! We are beginning our own farrowing this year (as opposed to simply purchasing pastured feeder pigs and raising them to processing weight). Our Galloway beef was very successful last year, as this was the first year we had beef for sale. We will have limited quantities available again in 2004 but look forward to producing enough 25-pound boxes so our customers can try this much leaner, healthier, strictly grass-fed beef. Our most exciting farm news for this year is that Brandon is now a full-time farmer! He is able to devote 100% of his time to caring for the animals, streamlining everyday processes, attending to customers, increasing our product line, etc.
Finally, we are still working on taking down the old barn and will be erecting a pole barn in its place, including a permanent structure for our customers to walk in and purchase our different meats. We are also taking down our old brooder and putting up a 21’ x 30’ hoop house, which will give us much more brooder space and allow us to start the chicks earlier in the spring.
2005 - Last season by far was our busiest with raising and selling over 2500 chickens, 200 turkeys (two breeds), 400 ducks (two breeds), farrowing our own piglets and selling 23 pigs, plus raising a handful of guineas (which at the beginning of the year we still have not been able to catch!). We also had 7 new Galloway calves born on pasture to add to our herd. Our new brooder is truly a blessing, as we have been able to raise many more chicks, poults and ducklings at one time than in our previous small brooder. (See picture above of the brooder at night.)
As you can see by the pictures, it's not all work and no play though! Our sons are an integral part of our family farm.
So what's new for the upcoming 2005 season? We'll be expanding our Heritage Breed Turkeys and having many more available for sale. We are also hoping to try our hand at raising cornish hens, on pasture of course! 2005 also promises to keep us busy with increasing our Tamworth pig farrowing operation, all taking place in the beautiful outdoors.
Tammera and Caleb also plan another season at the West Bend farmer's market, as 2004 was very profitable, both with selling many chickens and making many wonderful contacts.
2006 - WOW! What a busy spring it has been already. The biggest change this year is growing, growing and growing some more. We just started a batch of 800 ducklings in the brooder. Exciting news - The Muscovy ducks are back!!! The Rouen ducks from last year were delicious but a tad small for our tastes and barely enough to feed our hungry crew. We're looking forward to some good 6-9 lb. Muscovies this summer. YES - this summer, ready in August, almost two months earlier than other years. Our Pick-Up Joint is completed! This is our walk-in center on fresh poultry pick-up days. No more tent in the yard on pick-up Saturdays and no more dealing with the weather. We have much work to do on the inside, landscaping and porch work on the outside, but at least it will be a roof over our heads for the early summer.
DV Farm t-ball team enjoys an evening at the farm for a tour, a "hay ride" (which actually turned out to be the 5-wheeler with hay thrown in the back!), and some yummy snacks.
2007 - Individual cuts of beef and more pork cuts are what's new in 2007! We have only been able to sell our beef in 25-lb. boxes in past years, but this year we're trying something new by offering individual steaks and roasts for sale at the farm (and maybe even some at the farmer's market). Please see our online order form for the wonderful cuts available. We are also hoping to have whole hogs, half hogs and 25-lb. boxes of pork available earlier in the season, maybe even twice!
Fun farm tours have continued, and Gabriel's Christian playgroup, "Little Ones," got to enjoy a morning at the farm - petting the calf and the runt pig, holding baby chicks and poults, and, of course!, enjoying those tasty farm snacks.
New Chicks in Town! Dominion Valley Farm has taken on an additional breed of chickens, the Bronze Ranger. This is a delicious European meat bird, somewhat smaller in size (average dressed weight of 4 lbs.), and excellent for making stock. We're excited to add another breed to our farm in addition to our Cornish Cross birds.
2009 - What happened to 2008??? By looking above, I see that we didn't fill in our plans/successes/trials for the year for 2008. Suffice it to say it was an extremely busy farm year. I guess that's my (Tammera's) excuse! We were busy farrowing lots and lots of pigs. Plus, we started a new heritage breed on pasture, the Large Blacks. We have piglets spaced out on pasture covering many acres. Sadly, a coyote decided he (make note it was most probably, definitely a "he") needed our heritage turkeys more than we did. )-: We were able to get all of our customers who had ordered a heritage turkey at least 1 fresh for their Thanksgiving table. We are so thankful for our understanding customers! By raising all of our animals on pasture, they are a wee bit more susceptible to the elements than if they were raised safety in a barn. Maybe "safely" isn't the best word to use (crowded, no fresh air, no sunshine?).
Now onto 2009, whooo hooo, what an exciting year we have ahead of us!!! Our heritage pigs are flourishing on pasture. We will be able to offer pork more than once a year now, hopefully every 2-3 months we'll be processing. Thus, our customers will have more flexibility in ordering whole and half hogs plus 25-lb. boxes. We will also have individual cuts more readily available. Another "whooo hooo" is our beef supply for 2009! Thankfully, two years ago we were blessed with many steers born (boy cows to you city folk). As the steers take two full years to finish on pasture, our 2009 summer and fall promises many 25-lb. beef boxes and individual cuts available for sale.
We just had our 1st annual Pork Sample Day, which was a HUGE success! We grilled pork steaks, chops and country ribs (all Large Blacks – very tasty!); cooked bacon, maple breakfast sausage, brat patties and Italian seasoned ground pork; plus we had deli ham and other treats, all for the sampling pleasure of our customers who attended. This was an excellent opportunity for them to taste many of the different cuts that we offer, plus gave them ideas of how they want the butcher to prepare their half and whole hog orders.
2010 - New and updated website!!! This has been a long time coming! Believe it or not, we were still using HTML up until early 2010. The Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market has taken up all of our winter "free time" so we are now left with only 1 month out of the year of free Saturdays. Don't worry, one of us is always around on Saturdays to help customers who like to come to the farm and shop on that day.
We plan to greatly increase our number of chickens and turkeys raised this year. Sadly, for the first 5 months of 2010 we have no chickens available for sale, as we sold out last November. We're hoping by stepping up our production throughout the growing season, we will have plenty to carry our customers through the winter. We also will be trying a new bird this year called the Rouge Ranger, an excellent foraging bird, which this type of breed has been very popular with our Asian customers.
2011 - It has now come the time to redefine our product line that we offer to our customers. Over the years of raising Muscovy ducks and heritage turkeys, we have yet to make a profit. Thus, unfortunately/fortunately, we will not be raising the ducks or heritage turkeys this year. Hopefully, this will allow us the time and the energy (and the funds!) to focus on the more profitable animals, such as the white turkeys, chickens and pigs. We have tossed around the idea of producing enough chickens to last our customers through the winter, but, again, with trying to be cost efficient, running multiple freezers all winter long may not be in our best interest. We'll be working this idea out throughout the season and keep everyone updated.
The farmers' markets are going strong, so you will definitely find us at least at one market from June through April. You are always welcome to come out to the farm any time though!
2012 - The Bronze Rangers are back...by popular demand! This is our "brown-feathered chicken" that has been very popular with our Asian customers, although we have yet to find anyone who doesn't appreciate the delicious taste of this excellent foraging chicken. We had a customer explain it as having a "more enhanced chicken taste." The white chickens we raise are the Cornish Cross, which is the standard meat bird that most farmers such as ourselves raise. By offering a dark-feathered bird with a unique taste, we are hoping to satisfy many different palates and preferences.
**NEW** this year is our "grilling chicken." This is a whole chicken with the backbone removed, thus allowing the bird to be opened up and lay flat (butterflied) on your grill. Can't get much easier than that! Another **NEW** option is our "smoked half chicken." If you like chicken and like the smoky/salty flavor of ham, you will LOVE our smoked chickens!
With the costs of foods going up (the drought is wreaking havoc on grain prices!), we would like to help our faithful customers, in a small way, by offering our "Farmers' Market Punch Card." This punch card may be used at our West Bend or Lake Country markets for the 2012 season. Every time a purchase of $20 is made, one punch is received for each $20 spent. Receive 5 punches and earn a free pound of lean, grass-fed ground beef! We have only had this underway for a few weeks, and we have had wonderfully positive feedback!!! If all goes well, we will consider offering punch cards at the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market this 2012-2013 season. (Addendum: We now HAVE implemented the punch cards for the winter market, receiving 5% off your next purchase when the card is filled.)
2013 - So what's in store for Dominion Valley Farm for this year??? Well, too soon to tell in January (when I'm writing this), but we will add more as the year progresses. We can say that the Bronze Ranger chickens were a welcomed addition to the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market, not only by providing the customers there with an excellent-tasting chicken, but also by giving us another avenue for selling our product and helping us pay the feed bills.
Still no Heritage turkeys planned. Anyone have a pheasant set-up with the poles and netting that they would like to part with at an inexpensive price? We're thinking this would be a perfect situation for growing the heritage turkeys in the way we like to--right on pasture--but giving them a bit of protection from predators. Still in the works...
Unfortunately, many of our meat prices are going up this year due to the ever-increasing costs of corn, oats and soybeans that we grind for the pigs and poultry. The drought of 2012 caused such a shortage of these grains, and the thousands of bushels we are purchasing and have purchased from our neighbor cost us a pretty penny. Gabriel is still trying to figure out what is so bad about a pretty penny! (: If the weather in 2013 is more cooperative and/or our local farmers are able to sell grain to us at a lower price, we will definitely be passing these savings on to our faithful customers.
2014 - Okay, where has the year gone??? I'm finally writing our 2014 plan...and it's already December! Needless to say, it's been a hectic year. Doing what, you ask??? Hmmm, I don't really have a good answer for that. Unfortunately, time just got away from me. With the not-so-hot summer, that season just FLEW by! Here are are at the tail end of fall, which feels like winter, and we're already making plans for the 2015 season. We have some exciting stuff in store, so you just wait! We can say that it was a fabulous year on the farm. Of course, as pasture-based farmers, there are always so many variables that play into our idea of a successful versus unsuccessful year. Thankfully, we can truly say it has been a very successful year. Not only have all of our animals fared well in their beautiful pasture homes, but we have met some amazing new people, formed great relationships, and helped many families in their pursuits of eating well, local and healthy. What more could we ask for?
Oh, yeah...we did take a new family photo - may be the last one in a long time, as our children are beginning to disperse and pursue their own life's goals.
2015 - Another amazing year under our belts with, by God's grace, very few complications and, thankfully, no weather-related complications (droughts, floods, ets.). We ventured into the heritage turkyes once again this year--after a 5-year hiatus--with fantastic results! We'll keep you abreast of the heritage turkey potential for the 2016 season. We did see an increase in processing charges but little increase in grain costs. As of Decmeber 2015, our freezers are absolutely stocked with delicious meats, ready to take to the winter farmers' market and for customers to purchase at the farm...hopefully enough to last us through the winter/early spring season before poultry processing begins once again.
2016 - Due to our growing customer base and the need to produce more in the summer to store up for the winter, we just purchased a new-to-us 8x8 foot walk-in freezer and 8x8 foot walk-in refrigerator...adding this to our existing 8x8 foot walk-in freezer and 5 chest freezers. They are now stocked with pork, beef and poultry to carry us through the Milwaukee Winter Farmers' Market season, beginning in early November. Our annual Farm Open House in May was a huge hit with over 300 guests attending! The cold temperatures and hail (honestly!) didn't keep them away. We exchanged the lemonade for hot chocolate and warmed many little hands and tummies. Monthly meat deliveries to now 4 locations in the Greater Milwaukee area put a lot of miles on our delivery van, but it was such a joy to take our delicious meats closer to our customers who wouldn't have the time to drive north to the farm regularly. As of late October, we have sold out of both the Broad-Breasted white turkeys and the heritage turkeys. We have added Christmas half hams to our list of seasonal items that our customers can order.
2017 - It's now August when I'm finally putting onto paper this year's plans, dreams and goals. A lot has changed with three of our sons gone to either college or full-time summer jobs. That leaves the youngest, Gabriel (age 14), to help with the myriad of daily chores. He's been such a trooper! He's also proven to be quite a good little salesman at the farmers' market. I (Tammera) have taken over dealings on the butchering side of things, even driving pigs to the butcher myself. Needless to say, my trailer backing-up skills are severely deficient! The weather has been quite favorable this year, and the pastures are as lush as can be. Historically, our average-size chickens have been in the 4- to 5-lb. range, but this year they are in the 5- to 6-lb. range! A small batch of heritage turkeys are growing beautifully on the pasture, and we'll begin taking orders for them later in the fall.