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Making your farm dream a reality

It is a warm and windy June afternoon when I give Stateline Farm Beginnings graduate Vanessa Quiñones a call to learn her farm story. Vanessa started The Victory Garden Farm in Fredonia, WI after graduating from the Stateline Farm Beginnings program in the fall of 2015. She also balances an off-farm job as a massage therapist with farming the land she shares with her partner, Andrew. Originally from the Bronx, New York, Vanessa’s first experience with farming came when she moved into a Wisconsin farmhouse at five years old, where she and her stepparents raised rabbits, cats, and dogs, and grew a huge garden. After living in New York, Vanessa fell in love with the openness of their small farm and her passion for farming grew from there. 

After graduating from high school, Vanessa traveled around the world working in the hospitality industry as a massage therapist, all the while never losing interest in agriculture. It was while working on cruise ships for five years that she connected what she had learned about nutrition and wellness to her relationship with farming. “Food is medicine,” Vanessa says, and seeing clients with so many health issues due to the poor quality of the food they were eating reinforced how important food was to her. It became clear to Vanessa that the next step in her life was to pursue farming and bring that knowledge back to her community. She returned to the United States and began interning at a variety of farms to learn as much as she could about production. Not long after, Vanessa decided she was ready to start her own farm business and began looking for beginning farmer-training courses. Stateline Farm Beginnings caught her eye and she applied for the 2014-2015 season.

Vanessa entered Stateline Farm Beginnings in the fall of 2014 with extensive production knowledge, multiple farm internships under her belt, and the determination to learn about farming as a business.

“Learning organizational and financial skills – that was what I took away the most because that was what I was lacking,” says Vanessa. “For example, tracking my time or tracking how much you make on each crop… Having those numbers available is a big deal and those are things I honestly wouldn’t have thought about. Good bookkeeping and tracking things makes you a better farmer, and that’s one of the main things I took away from the class.” As the winter-course portion of Stateline Farm Beginnings wrapped up in the spring of 2015, Vanessa’s farm dream began to take shape when her partner, Andrew, purchased a farm in Fredonia, WI just north of Milwaukee. This farm became The Victory Garden Farm. Now in its second year of production, Vanessa has created a successful poultry business, raising Animal Welfare Approved chickens and turkeys for meat and eggs, as well as growing vegetables for farmers markets and a small CSA.

So what’s next for Vanessa and The Victory Garden Farm? While Vanessa wants to eventually narrow her focus to raising poultry and growing varieties of garlic, tomatoes, and herbs, her immediate goal is to blend her years of experience in the hospitality industry with her love of farming by integrating agritourism into her business. Inspired by a farm she interned at prior to Stateline Farm Beginnings, Vanessa wants to begin offering weekly pizza nights, open a farm store, and host weddings, farm tours, and other private events. In order to make this vision a reality, Vanessa plans to apply for an FSA microloan in the next year to renovate her barn and build a commercial kitchen, where she will make value-added products from not only the fruits of her labor in the fields but also as a nod to her Puerto Rican heritage. While she plans on producing familiar items such as a variety of pestos, sauces, and soups, Vanessa also wants to introduce her community to a traditional Puerto Rican salsa called sofrito. Sofrito is a sauce made from cilantro, garlic, and, most importantly, the ají dulce pepper, a sweet pepper so difficult to find outside of Puerto Rico that Vanessa special orders seeds for her farm. Staying true to her roots is important to Vanessa, and she wants to share this with her community when she hosts on-farm events at The Victory Garden. “Farming is giving back to the land, my community, and my family,” Vanessa says. “It all goes hand in hand for me. Food brings people together and having events at the farm around food just works.”

By Sarah Petri
Farmer Training Program Assistant

Photo credit goes to Vanessa Quiñones' (The Victory Garden Farm). Visit The Victory Garden Farm's Facebook or Instagram for more pictures and farm information!

Want to learn more about Stateline Farm Beginnings? Click HERE!  Applications are available thru September 29, 2017. 
To be added to the interest list for Stateline Farm Beginnings, email our Program Assistant, Sarah Petri.