Raising a Family—and a Farm

Jannelle: We're first-generation in Wisconsin. We did our honeymoon here. We did a Wisconsin tour for it and we came through this area, the Driftless. I remember Jason saying, "There's something about this area that I really like."

Photos by Megan Monday

The Thimmesch Family | La Farge, WI

Years ago we met in Iowa. We had seen each other around Dubuque, but we didn’t really click until we bumped into each other at an organic farming conference. We would talk in between sessions about the different stuff we were learning. One day I brought him a bouquet… of broccoli.

Jason: We were both actively curious about farming, and we started to work as farm hands in Iowa. We chored for people, raised chickens, learned some things. But it was hard to get going. Farming wasn’t as collectivized there, and it was harder for small farms to make a living, being pretty close to the ‘corn desert,’ so less small farms. 

And after our honeymoon we just kept circling back to Wisconsin. We were interested in alternative building stuff, and so we came up here to meet people around that. Then we were interested in biodynamic stuff so we came up here and went to gatherings. All of a sudden it clicked, like we needed to be here.

Jannelle: When we first came, our son Isaac was just a little guy in the back seat of the car, helping us try to find a place. He’d point out the window at houses and farms saying, “What about that one?”

Become part of the Love Wisconsin

Jannelle: Now we’re getting ready for the next generation of farmers. Our oldest, Myra, is farm-swapping this year. She and some of the other teenagers are trading work at each other’s farms. So this morning Myra’s milking at her friend’s farm, and her friend will come here this summer and help weed and harvest cilantro a day a week. 

Our son, Isaac, is in on things, too. Whenever Linda from the co-op calls, she asks for Isaac now. He’s harvested some watercress, and she wants to place the order with him now.

Isaac: She’s giving me the checks now, too.

Jannelle: Yeah, she calls from the co-op and asks for The Boss. And the Amish girls call him ‘Mini-boss.’ He’s learning it. He’s pretty eager about the whole farm operation and gets the business part, too, which is great. We love that they’re interested. It’s what we wanted for them, this whole picture of family involvement.

Isaac: My favorite is trout fishing. There’s a trout stream nearby to my friends house and I go down there. I just use a worm and cast out. We’ve been pickling them when I catch ’em. We gut ’em, scale ’em, take their heads off…add salt, garlic, what else?

Genevieve: Onions! Oh, I love the onions.

Isaac: I got a pigeon couple days ago. We’ll have a rabbit today.

Jason: He’s been building these sling-spears for underwater spearfishing. The other day we went to the lake and put wetsuits on and snorkeled in a mask, chasing fish. And he just figures out this stuff on his own. He’s pretty adventurous and self-reliant.

Nanka: My mom taught me to sew. Today I’m cutting the sleeves off of all my long sleeved things and turning them into short sleeved things.

Remember when Genevieve was born, they sewed her an Amish doll? It was bigger than she was.

Genevieve: And it didn’t have a face, so any side could be the front!

Jannelle: Yeah. This is the kind of place where people bring you food when you have a baby. They make your child a doll. You know, we’re living and farming on this ridge in the Driftless, and we sometimes think about this rural neighborhood, the rest of this ridge, as an extension of our farm. Like we’re all sharing one farm. We are able to get hay nearby. We’ve gotten feed nearby. Yesterday our neighbor came over with his team of horses. Our next-door neighbors came and farm-sat for a couple of weeks over the winter. It’s a community. The neighborliness and the friendliness…it’s really something.

-The Thimmesch Family | La Farge, WI

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