Janesville46.4°

Couple farm with care

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Carla McCann
January 20, 2008
— At first glance, Altfrid and Sue Krusenbaum’s farm on County D in Elkhorn doesn’t appear much different than many other Walworth County farms.

Cows wander across a nearby pasture. The family’s dog, a self-appointed greeter, often stands sentinel near the driveway. And people, attending to chores, come and go from the barn.


But a second look at Krusen Grass Farms paints a picture of a nontraditional operation that was developed on respect for the environment and hope for the future.


The farm was founded on a biodynamic philosophy.


“Biodynamics looks at the farm as an organism with the goal in mind to develop a self-sustaining farm individuality,” Altfrid said.


On this farm, the fields are free of mineral fertilizers and chemicals.


The pasture-based dairy operation involves an intensively managed rotational grazing system that doesn’t require an annual tilling of the soil. The holistic approach to farming includes networking with customers to make the food system more local, safe and secure.


As certified organic dairy farmers, the Krusenbaums often host tours and school field trips at their 340-acre farm.


“They are so willing all of the time to share their unique farming operation with any type of group,” said Peg Reedy, agriculture agent for UW Extension in Walworth County. “They always give a great tour of the farm, explaining everything they do and why they do it.”


Altfrid also is employed part time as the UW Extension grazing specialist, Reedy said.


Since he took that job, more people are showing an interest in this type of operation, she said.


Furthering the family’s commitment to young farmers, Altfrid was instrumental 12 years ago in starting the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers. The five-month certificate course is offered within the UW Farm and Industry Short Course curriculum and includes additional opportunities for on-farm internships, conference attendance, mentoring and networking.


“He’s stayed involved with the program all of this time,” said Dick Cates, director of the UW-Madison School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers. “He’s a real leader in furthering and promoting the concept of mentoring.”


Last year, the Krusenbaums started a share-milking program that is aimed at providing a career path for young people to become dairy farmers.


Share milkers take on most of the responsibility for the herd. In return, they own a percentage of the milk and get every fifth female calf born here during their time on the farm, Altfrid said.


When the current couple leaves the program, they will take all of their calves with them to start their own farm, Altfrid said.


For Altfrid, 51, who was born in Germany, and Sue, 44, farming is more than a profession. It is a lifestyle.


For the Krusenbaums, the family farm is a safe oasis in an often-polluted food-distribution system.


“The Krusenbaums are immensely successful in what they do,” Cates said. “They have shown the rest of Wisconsin that you don’t have to be a big farm. They are the real deal.”


ALTFRID AND SUE KRUSENBAUM
Age: Sue 44; Altfrid, 51
Community: Elkhorn
Occupation: Certified organic dairy farmers, owners and operators of Krusen Grass Farms
Family: Three children, Tony, 16; Julia, 14; and Justin, 12
Favorite hobby or pastime: Sue, reading, hiking and skiing; Altfrid, bicycling, motorcycling and skiing
Favorite CD: Sue, “The Very Best of Emmylou Harris”; Altfrid, “Strange and Beautiful,” by Aqualung
Favorite movie: Sue, “A Beautiful Mind”; Altfrid, “Rain Man”
Favorite book: Sue, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee; Altfrid, “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer
Role model: Sue, her godmother, Traute Page; Altfrid, all selfless people

Three words that best describe you: Sue, friendly, laid-back and a people person; Altfrid, generous, detailed-oriented and caring.



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