Welsh Family Organic Farm honored as Century Farm in 2020

Family pride ... The Welsh family of Welsh Family Organic Farms, rural Lansing. Left to right: Clinton, Brooke, Madelyn, Kelly, Clayton, Gabrielle, Easden, Emery, Ada, Oden, Kim, Gary and Esther. Submitted photo.

Early start ... This graphic was printed on a t-shirt the Welsh family had created for Bill Welsh. The Welsh family farm was certified organic in 1988. Submitted photo.

submitted by Welsh Family Organic Farm

Welsh Family Organic Farm of rural Lansing is a 2020 Farm Bureau Federation Century Farm honoree. To qualify for this award the farm has to be in the family for 100 years. The 200-acre farm was first purchased by Gary Welsh’s great grandparents, Fred and Mary Weber, in 1920 and later sold to their son, William Weber.
William (Bill) and Esther Welsh, Gary’s parents, purchased the farm August 15, 1963. The farm was then transferred March 16, 1994 to Welsh Properties, Inc., which was owned by William and Esther Welsh. July 22, 2005, Gary and Kim Welsh purchased Welsh Properties, Inc.

In 1994, the poultry building was added to the farmstead. The birds were processed at the federal processing plant, Wapsi Produce plant in Decorah. The finished beef and market hogs were processed at the federal processing locker, Ledebuhr’s in Winona, MN.  Then all processed meat products were brought back to the farm and marketed under the Welsh Family Organic Farm label.

These meat products were shipped UPS directly to the consumer and the retail store delivery of meat products was shipped via delivery truck.  When federal processing was no longer available, all Welsh Family Organic Farm meat products were sold and are presently sold through Organic Prairie at LaFarge, WI.

Welsh Family Organic Farm has been certified organic since 1988. The farm was transitioned to an organic farm back in 1981 due to an incident that happened to their beef cows May 10, 1981; Bill Welsh remembered that day vividly. A piece of an empty insecticide bag, a chemical routinely used on corn, had blown into the hay shed and contaminated a bale of hay that the cows had eaten. The Welsh’s lost 13 cows that day and gained their future as organic farmers.

Esther Welsh states, “It is only by the grace of God and with the help of family and friends that we were able to maintain and sustain our family farming operation over many years.”

The diversified farm is a sustainable operation better for the health of the soil and for the animals and people who depend on a healthy environment. The manure from the animals is rotated back into the soil as fertilizer for the next crops. Animals rely on those crops for feed in the winter, but sustain themselves on rich grassy pasture during the growing season.

Along with healthy soil as a basis of farming for the Welsh family, humane treatment of their animals has always been a cornerstone of their organic farm. The hogs are housed in a straw-bedded building that remains open according to weather so that the hogs can wander freely in and out as they please. Beef cattle are rotated through several pastures in which Kentucky bluestem grass has been nurtured over the decades and remains healthy and strong as a result. Cattle are fed hay and grains over the winter when the pasture is dormant and frozen. The layers (chickens) are housed in a building where  the lower doors open to a pasture for outside access and the power is generated through solar  panel.

To be certified organic the farm has got to go three years without using any chemicals and antibiotics, and the farm has to be inspected annually to maintain its organic certification.  The farm is on a four-year crop rotation and raises all certified organic crops - alfalfa, soybeans, corn and oats/barley, and livestock - market hogs, beef cow/calf, as well as raising pullets and an egg laying operation. All crops raised are fed to the animals, and all livestock and eggs are sold to Organic Prairie/Organic Valley in LaFarge, WI.

The farm is operated by Gary and his sons, Clinton and Clayton Welsh, making it a fifth generation family farm. The Welsh family entertains visitors such as the local kindergarten classes; farm field day(s); and Organic Prairie/Organic Valley staff, farmers and buyers. Gary emphasizes, “Organic farming put the fun and profit back in farming.”

Also, Gary organizes the area monthly organic farmer meetings sponsored by the Iowa State University Extension Office. These meetings are roundtable discussions on organic farming practices and techniques to learn what is working and what is not working through this network of organic farmers. Due to the pandemic, these meetings have been postponed.

Through their long history as organic farmers, the Welshes have seen the industry through its birth and its growing pains, on through to today as it flourishes.

Clinton Welsh explains, “I’m grateful to be able to continue working the farmland that my previous generations shaped for us.”

His brother, Clayton Welsh, adds, “Without the hard work and dedication of the prior generations, I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have today in the organic family farming operation.”

Through it all, nothing much has changed for the Welshes. When the national organic standards became the rule and organic was baptized by the USDA, the only thing that changed for the Welshes was the paperwork. The long journey is summed up neatly by a shirt the boys made for Bill Welsh which reads “Organic Farmer” on the front, and the back of the shirt reads “I was organic… when organic wasn’t cool”.

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