Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Farmers are the small-town heroes that keep our communities moving forward. In our series Harvesting Heroes, we celebrate ag workers, whose hard work and innovation makes a difference. Each month we’ll tell the story of a Harvesting Hero and their contributions to agriculture in our region.

Tonight, we visit Mullikin Meadows, where a new generation and new ideas are bringing dairy back to their family farm.

“My name is Heather Keane and this is Mullikin Meadows. This is our family farm.  My dad got out of the dairy business about ten years ago.  And we have had two different families that have come and farmed and leased the barn and it was that time again to come and get another family.  And in that whole process, something was just really ignited in both my brother and me.  That we had this crazy idea that we, what if it was us.  What if we were the ones to bring back dairy to the family farm,” said Keane.

“So, I’m Andrew Mullikin, Co-owner of Mullikin Meadows.  The farm had been vacant for a year and a half, I think.  We were due to have people come back in. Sister and I decided to bring dairy back to the farm here and I guess we decided if anybody should do it, it should be us,” said Mullikin.

Keane said, “When our cows came, my dad was in the yard watching them come off of the trailer and he remembered the day that they brought their cattle to the farm.”

“It was pretty surreal. I mean the memories came back to the day that our cattle, or my dad and I’s cattle come on.  So, it was really nice to be here to see that.  And then a new start for Andy and Heather.  So, it was really a nice memory,” said Mike Mullikin.

You know sustainability was a really big kind of buzzword, and now people are really gravitating for regenerative farming and agriculture.  So that’s not just making things where you don’t have an impact but building soil and building happy healthy animals.  And so that’s what we consider our regenerative practices, is that we want to take this dairy which right now is being farmed conventionally,” said Keane.

“That’s how we started.  And then we are working with N.R.C.S. and coming up with master grazing plans.  And looking already at seeding this spring, our very first meadows.  And so, by this time next year, in one year, it’s our hope and our plan, that we will actually be an intensive rotational grazing operation.  Grass-fed dairy,” said Keane.

We were doing the traditional farming like everybody else, you know, that’s all we knew. Ah, there are other ways to do it.  And so that’s what we’ve done research on. When you look at the landscape, it’s meant for grass.  We picked the Jerseys because I think they’re the best grazers out there.  It’s a different way of running, I guess, a dairy operation. With the same end result, which is healthy cows, you know, making milk,” said Mullikin.

Keane said, “I think farming is beautiful.  I think farm families are amazing. And I think that farming lends itself to restoration.  So, I guess that I just want people to see that you can have big dreams and they can be crazy. And that you just take little steps. and surround yourself with a group of people who know more than you do.  And have that soft fertile heart that you can plant these new ideas and let them grow.”