Chilton farmer David Meuer considers himself lucky to have been introduced to conservation practices through his father who saw value in investing in the health of the land. When David purchased his farm across the highway from his father's farm, he continued to uphold the conservation ethic his dad instilled in him.
David and Leslie Meuer, the 2015 Leopold Conservation Award winners, have always worked with the land rather than against it. Their cattle are grass-fed and rotationally grazed on 30 acres of sloping pastures.
Relying on the stream running through their 190-acre farm to provide water for their cows, they installed stream bank fencing to help hold the soil in place and keep the water clean before it empties into Lake Winnebago.
David, 54, milked cows until he sold the 40-cow herd in 2010.
"Now the beef herd is using the same pastures the dairy cows grazed on," Leslie explains.
The Meuers sell halves and quarters of their beef to customers.
"Next fall, we'll start selling grassfed beef at our on-farm store," Leslie says. "People have been asking for it."
They opened their on-farm store in 2012. In addition to beef, they also raise and sell 10 to 15 hogs annually. They also raise broilers and keep egg-laying hens.
The natural springs in their farm pond are used in their drip irrigation for strawberries, reducing their water use by 40% and eliminating the need for a high-capacity well for overhead irrigation.
Recognizing the value in sharing space with wildlife, David and Leslie converted one of their fields into a food plot for wildlife.
Tapping the sugar maples on their farm has resulted in a robust maple syrup business. They sell 75 to 100 gallons of syrup each year to customers at their on-farm store. They also harvest puffball and morel mushrooms, wild plums and black walnuts from trees planted by David more than 30 years ago.
The Meuers are also beekeepers and sell honey from their bees.
"We have 20 hives," David says. "I mainly started with them to help with pollination of strawberries."
They recently started growing and grinding and selling specialty grains including durum wheat, which is high in gluten, oats and spelt.
"Spelt is grown and harvested like wheat," says Leslie. "It grows taller than wheat and has lower levels of gluten than wheat."
A nearby business uses Meuer Farm durum wheat flour to make pasta which the Meuers sell in their store in addition to oatmeal, flour and spelt.
A unique aspect of their farm is their heavy emphasis on agritourism. Every year they open their farm to more than 30,000 visitors from all over the country who pick strawberries at their farm and challenge their sense of direction in a corn maze. They also host farm-to-table dinners during the summer months and bring in local chefs to prepare meals featuring produce grown on their farm.
"If Aldo Leopold himself had ever met David or his father, I firmly believe he would have been impressed by their quiet, persistent passion and land ethic," says Rock Anderson, retired Calumet County conservationist.
For store hours and more information about Meuer Farm, visit them on the web at www.meuerfarm.com.