This land outside of Cashton in Monroe County has been home to the Herricks family for the last 110 years. In the ’70s, Jack Herricks unexpectedly took over the farm at 19-years-old after his father died in a tractor accident.
“The only assets I really had was determination, perseverance, and just the mindset that I was going to make this all happen somehow even though I really didn’t know how.”
Ready for the challenge, Herricks built on his father’s work taking the farm from 34 cows and 120 acres to now 630 cows and nearly 12 hundred acres.
“As time went on, more opportunities came to grow the farm and make it something more viable for my family. as I would describe it, except for a few moves, it was a lot of baby steps that we took.”
Day in and day out he keeps in mind the lessons he learned growing up.
“Everything we produce, we need to be able to use, and it’s like, we don’t want to waste anything. If we went through the bother of harvesting this ear of corn or this pound of haylige, then we need to feed it. We need to get use out of it, and that reflects on how we care for our land.”
It’s that mindset that’s helped guide the farm. In the 1980s, Herricks was one of the first farmers to adopt a new way of planting his fields.
“No-till is a practice of using a planter that’s set up, so that you can place the seed in the ground at the correct depth in such a manner that it will take off and grow without doing any tillage on the soil.”
Back then he was met with doubt. Herricks says some people didn’t think it would work. In the end, he saw what an impact it had on his land. Over the years, this type of farming has created more organic material in the soil, allowing fields to hold more water.
“When we think about how much more water holding capacity our soils have that’s where we really gain with no-till, because if we get into a dry season, we have a lot more reserve for our crops to find water and utilize water to keep growing.”
Herricks and his family were recognized with the Aldo Leopold award in 2014 for their conservation work. In the end, Herricks says his hard work stems from his desire to take the best care of his farm for future generations. One of his favorite things he gets to do now.
“I get to do farm work with my grandsons and see how they enjoy farming and getting involved in it now.”
Herricks dairy farm is a family affair. Herricks children, grandchildren, and extended family are all involved with the farm. Herricks says the next steps is passing more and more responsibilities to the farm’s next leaders.