Name: Ann Larkin Hansen
Occupation: Organic farmer, journalist
Location: Chippewa County, Wisconsin
Farming background: For nearly 25 years Ann has run their family’s diversified small-scale farm and worked as an agricultural journalist, “the best jobs in the world,” she says, “if you want to farm. You get paid to interview and learn from other farmers, then you can quite often take that knowledge home and see how it works on your own place.” One of the most important things she’s learned, she said, “is that there are no hard-and-fast right and wrong ways to do something. Every farm and every homestead is unique, and what it produces and how depends on that piece of land’s unique combination of soils, terrain, climate, available markets and support services, and the owner’s preferences and abilities.”
Of the Hansen’s 250 acres, just 40 are tillable, with an additional 20 acres of rough pasture and the remainder in forest and swampland. For 20 years Ann raised grass-fed beef cattle for her cash crop, rotationally grazing the herd and making and storing hay for the winter months. She also planted and maintained a small apple orchard, raised meat and laying chickens and a few pigs, and grew a garden. In winter, work is focused on the woods, making firewood and pruning and thinning trees. A few years ago the beef cattle were replaced by dairy heifers, which Ann raises from weaning to breeding age, when they return to their home farm, a certified organic dairy.
Current Projects and Other Fun Facts: Being the oldest girl in a family of 13 kids meant Ann learned early in life to hit the ground running in the morning and keep going till the work was done – perfect training for farming! She also learned that when the work is done, it’s time to have fun, and her favorite way of having fun is playing violin in two community orchestras, or with anyone who happens to stop by with a musical instrument.
• Beef Cattle: Keeping a Small-Scale Herd for Pleasure and Profit (BowTie Press)
• The Organic Farming Manual (this and all the others from Storey Publishing)
• A Landowner’s Guide to Managing Your Woods (with Master Logger Mike Severson and Consulting Forester Dennis Waterman) (Named “2011 Woodland Book of The Year” by the National Woodland Owners Association)
• Finding Good Farmland
• Electric Fencing
• Making Hay
• Maintaining Small Farm Equipment (with her husband, Steve)