We're not farmers by accident, though never would have predicted we'd be commercial asparagus farmers and graziers. Our search for a rural homestead with space to plant, grow, tend and harvest, led us to a sweet spot on high rolling hills near Madison, WI. With the long-lived asparagus recently planted, fruits and fields established, all we needed to do was brush off our boots, raise a family and learn how to care for our piece of the Earth.
And we needed a farm name! Our three children were young and fell easily into new rhythms with all the space, freedoms and animals. One day they pedaled bikes around the farm, shirtless and dirty, and it was clear- Little Heathens Farm! Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression author Mildred Armstrong Kalish, Millie, loved our name choice too.
David's entrepreneurial experience, knowledge of grocery cooperatives/food systems, and knack for diplomatically saying "no" got us off to a great start. Molly brings landscape planning and permaculture design experience, increasing horticultural and vet skills, and a knack for saying "yes." Three kids all contribute different strengths and interests too, and together we make a solid team. We've settled well into our farm plan; it brings us joy and nourishing foods that we get to share with you.
~David and Molly Waisman
Regenerative agriculture keeps carbon in our soils and not in our atmosphere. About a quarter of CO2 emissions comes from agriculture, not typically family farms, but the small impact of our farm builds upon every other farm making sustainable choices. It all makes a difference! Our holistic view of farming prioritizes rehabilitating healthy farm ecosystems.
Some regenerative practices we include follows:
avoid bare soil by using cover crops and mulches
reduce tillage both in frequency and area
increase plant diversity
integrate animals that graze and browse
eradicate invasives and favor natives
cultivate all realms of diversity
encourage deep-rooted plants
foster strong immunity in plants, animals and people
increase edge effects and pollinators
There are many overlaps between these regenerative agriculture practices and those of permaculture. Permaculture's three main tenets are Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share; regenerative agriculture's focus is soil health.
"Not only does adopting regenerative agriculture practices help farmers deal with current climate change impacts by making their farms more resilient and adaptive to what is happening around them now; it allows them to take action to fight it long-term by being part of a larger solution to the crisis, through carbon sequestration."
- Climate Reality Project
We cultivate over six acres of asparagus. Half of the asparagus has been transitional, and then certified Organic since 2012, first under Little Heathens Farm and now Yang's Seasonal Produce. Because Yang's provide most of the asparagus to our local Willy Street Co-op stores wholesale, the certification label is vital. The rest of our asparagus fields are managed the same without certification; these fields are rented to a few local market farmers that sell at area farmers markets and restaurants. These long-term working relationships are fruitful for all of the farm businesses involved and a rewarding component of our farm's success.
Of our 18 acres, about two-thirds is fenced pasture for rotationally grazing livestock through dedicated pasture, woods, and asparagus fields. Our livestock fertilize, mow, clear fence lines, keep pest pressure down and transform soils. All of our livestock is pastured or free-ranging. Since 2012 we have planted hundreds (thousands?) of trees and shrubs for habitat, protection and fodder in the pasture and surrounding windbreaks. We strive to keep our farm mimicking nature's systems. Specific details on our animal husbandry practices can be found on our livestock page.