The Rise Of Valley Ridge Farm
Today, 3rd generation farmer - Brian Larson - operates 1,100 acres of grain and pastured beef that makes up Valley Ridge Farm. But back at the very beginning, there was Brian's grandpa - John Larson - who purchased the original 177 acre dairy farm during the year of 1958 in York, Wisconsin. Brian's parents - Ron & Deb- then took over the dairy farm in 1988.
Brian was a farm kid. While growing up you could find Brian riding along with his dad while he farmed and playing with his tractor toys, trying to be like his dad - a farmer. As soon as he was big enough he "graduated" from playing on the farm to working on the farm.
Soon after graduating from the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire in 2008, Brian left the farm to pursue a career in the nutrition and fitness industry while his dad and mom continued to milk 85 cows and farm corn and soybeans as a cash crop.
Everything changed the day Brian received a call from his mom during April of 2014. Ron (Brian's Dad) was diagnosed with cancer - multiple myeloma - this eventually caused Deb and Ron to sell the dairy cows and raise holstein steers to reduce the workload.
While Ron was hospitalized in the fall of 2015, due to an aggressive form of treatment, Brian was called back to farm to help with the 400 acre soybean harvest. Ron would go on to fight another year, but on September 20th, 2016 at the age of 57 Ron would lose his battle and passed away with Brain at his side and holding his hand. Brian's last words to his dad were, "Don't worry Dad, I'll take care of your crops." Just as he finished saying his promise, his dad passed.
Ron was gone. But 1,000 acres of soybeans and corn were still standing and needed to be harvested. Once again Brian was called back to the farm - from Denver. He and the hired help successfully finished the 2016 harvest. But there was a major decision that needed to be addressed and made by Brian and his mom - Deb Larson.
Sell the farm or keep it going?
Brian and his mom decided to keep the farm going for at least one more year. 2017 would be there "trial year." After the 2017 season came to an end and 1,100 acres were planted and harvested, Brian knew this was what he wanted to do. He realized that if someone else bought this land which was farmed by a Larson since 1958, it would forever regret not taking it over.
So in April of 2018, the farming operation would trade generations once again and Brian Larson would become the 3rd generation at Valley Ridge Farm. But he would make changes to the way it was farmed.
He grew up in the conventional farming model. A dairy farm, steer feedlot operation and grain commodity farming. If he was going to farm, Brian wanted to farm in a way that aligned with his values and beliefs. It didn't take long for him to discover the Regenerative Agriculture model and quickly became enamored.
He saw a way of farming that would be better for human health, the cows, the farmer and the land. Farming for nutrition and improving the health of the soil would become his focus. After 6 months of extensive and daily research and learning, Brian began to make the first steps towards transitioning the farm to Regenerative Agriculture.
He began by going true no-till for all grain crops, planting 124 acres of non-GMO corn, planting pollinator plots, starting a 100% grass fed beef herd on 40+ acres of freshly seeded cover crop pastures, marketing his own brand of beef products, and diversifying his crop rotation.
It will be a long process but it's a process he is committed to and a farming philosophy that he believes in from his core. And he's just getting started. Stay tuned for more pasture raised and nutrient dense foods from Valley Ridge Farm. Because when you see that name you know that it was farmed in a way to produce the healthiest and most nutritious food for you.