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  • Writer's pictureKyle Banigan

How a childhood dream, cancer, and YouTube sparked a move into pasture based farming

I might as well start this blog with a little bit about myself, how I got into farming, and how the farm got to where it is today.

I grew up in Cottage Grove, WI, where I still live now. My Grandpa was a farmer and I spent a lot of my childhood following him around the farm. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a farmer. After high school I went to the UW Madison Farm and Industry Short Course, which just made me want to farm even more than before. Eventually I was able to find a farm to rent, and got a few cows from my uncle. I raised some pigs that I direct marketed and I sold my calves as feeder steers. I was farming, but didn't really have much direction. I wanted a path to full time farming, but a few pigs and feeder steers weren't cutting it. I started looking at different ways to go to market, and learned a lot about direct marketing. I started to see direct marketing as a way to get my foot in the door in the farming industry.

Then, in 2017 my life changed in a lot of ways. At the age of 26 I found out I had testicular cancer. I had surgery and luckily the doctors were able to remove all of the tumor before anything spread. Getting cancer that early in my life really made me think about what goes into my body, and what goes into our food system as a whole. During my recovery from the surgery I spent a lot of time watching farming videos on YouTube. I found a video about a man in California who worked in an office and had bad arthritis and health issues at a young age as well. He started thinking about our food system the same way I did. Before long he started raising chickens for his family. Eventually his chicken operation grew, and he was able to quit his office job and become a full time farmer. He now runs a farm called Primal Pastures and is shipping pasture raised chickens anywhere west of the Mississippi River. I was realizing that there is a huge need and demand for clean, healthy, locally grown food. I dug a little deeper and I found out about Joel Salatin and his books, which I continue to study and emulate on my own farm. I went out to Virginia and toured Joel's farm, which I would consider the Mecca for pasture based agriculture and direct marketing. My goal is to take all of the things I have learned from these great examples to help make my little farm into somewhere that I can grow and provide clean, healthy food for my family, friends, and anyone else who wants it.

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