WW Homestead Dairy Hosts the NEIA Food and Farm Network
The June 11 gathering of the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Network drew a crowd of 13 farmers and food businesses to WW Homestead Dairy in Waukon. Despite the hot weather, this group of food and farm entrepreneurs took a break from their farms to learn about the dairy’s story, meet up with other farmers, and, of course, eat some ice cream!
The gathering started at Weighner’s dairy farm with a tour led by Tom Weighner and daughter Stephanie Iverson. Weighners are milking about 100 cows and hauling milk to the processing plant in town on a daily basis. It was fun for the mix of farmers to see the milking parlor, loafing barn, and calf shed. Some attendees had extensive backgrounds in livestock and dairy, but others hadn’t spent much time on dairies and had many excellent questions about infrastructure, herd management, and production systems.
From the farm, the group traveled to WW Homestead’s retail space and processing plant in town. This part of the tour was enlightening on many levels. First of all, it was interesting for the group to see what goes into making cheese, ice cream, and fluid milk; attendees were impressed by the equipment, recipe creation, and processing systems. But, even more exciting was learning the nuts-and-bolts of operating a value-added business at this scale. Tom Weighner shared great insight on the logistics and challenges of starting a business, finding the right space, building a market, and arranging distribution.
Attendees gained a clear-eyed perspective on the hard work it takes to build a value-added farm business, and went away incredibly inspired by WW Homestead’s success and impact on the community. Even though they have faced challenges, Tom said they would do it all again. Northeast Iowa’s passionate farm entrepreneurs agree; when you’re doing what you love, you find joy in overcoming obstacles.
The next two monthly gatherings of the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Network will be 4 p.m. Sunday, July 16th at Kymar Acres in Waukon and 4:00 p.m. Sunday, August 20 at Turkey River farm near Elkport. Contact Kayla Koether (firstname.lastname@example.org or 563-382-2949) for more information.