CADOTT — Neil Young spent late January bouncing around the Midwest during his Big M Theater Tour with stops in Milwaukee, Madison and a four-night series of shows in Minneapolis.
That was the sort of hard work Andrew and Emily Drilling — owners of Harvest Moon Organics farm and The Old Laughing Lady General Store — can understand.
“I wish I could have gone to all of them,” said Andrew, who was able to get away with Emily to see a Young concert during the artist’s first night in Minneapolis. “He was going to play a little different setlist every night.”
The Drillings said they have found tremendous influence in Young’s work, which is evidenced in the name of their farm, Harvest Moon Organics (Young released a 1992 album called “Harvest Moon”); their new farm store, The Old Laughing Lady General Store (“The Old Laughing Lady” is a song from Young’s self-titled 1969 album); and their slogan, “Farmin’ in the free world” (from the song “Rockin’ in the Free World”).
“We are huge fans of the musician, and his music can get a person through anything,” Emily said, “so every time it came to naming something, Andrew always went back to Neil Young.”
At Harvest Moon Organics south of Cadott, the Drillings raise chickens, hogs and beef cattle on the 100-acre farm that has been in Emily’s family for four generations. The farm’s animals are raised on 40 acres of pasture that was certified organic by Midwest Organic Services Association last June. They have another 60 acres that has been converted to grasses from row crops and can be certified organic next year.
“We just made the decision that it was what we wanted to do,” Andrew said about going organic. “It gives people a little more peace of mind that they are getting an organic product when you get the certification. The whole organic movement, to me, is a chance for small farmers and a chance to bring back the small farms. It’s hard to do organic on a huge farm. To me, huge farms wouldn’t work without (genetically modified) seeds and chemical sprays.”
The Drillings have been on the farm for nine years. They started raising Holstein steers when they took over the farm and began direct marketing organic, pasture-raised chicken and non-GMO pork from their Mangalitsa and Mangalitsa-cross pigs in 2017. Their products are available at Menomonie Food Co-op, The Lakely restaurant in Eau Claire and from their farm store.
They grow some barley and a little bit of corn, but they have been trying a non-corn/non-soy mix with the Mangalitsa pigs, while the cross pigs still get corn.
“We’re trying to get to the point where we can just be grass, but with the pigs it’s nice to get them the corn to help them put on weight and for a little more energy when it gets as cold as it did,” Andrew said.
Mangalitsa are a Hungarian breed of hog with a woolly coat that is prized by chefs because of the flavor of the meat, which is enhanced by the marbeling from the breed’s fat. They are a lard pig, and their lard is 56 percent monounsaturated fat. Their fat also contains high levels of oleic acid, which is a cancer-fighter and is found in fatty fish, olive oil, eggs and more, Andrew said.
“The Mangalitsa have a healthy fat,” he said. “If you feed them corn, it changes how the fat develops. So we’ve been feeding them the non-corn/non-soy mix. But I’m not sure I like that either. There isn’t the energy in that they’d be getting from corn.”
Like the cattle, the pigs are rotationally grazed for most of the year.
“There’s a lot of clover out there, and they do pretty well on that, especially with that Mangalitsa in them,” Andrew said. “The Mangalitsa seem to like the hay and forage.”
Andrew said he keeps an eye on the pastures but tries to rotate the animals before the grasses are taken down too far.
“It depends on how ambitious they are,” Emily said. “And those pigs can be pretty ambitious.”
The Drillings also raised 400 to 500 Cornish cross meat chickens last year, numbers they are hoping to increase this year, Andrew said. They also have about 40 layers and offer certified organic eggs and 11 Scottish Highlands and four Herefords for beef.
“It’ll be another couple years before we can start marketing our beef with any kind of volume,” Andrew said.
“That was my two-year dream, to have beef again,” Emily said.
Andrew grew up on a dairy farm near Boyd, and the previous three generations of Emily’s family milked cows on the farm, but the stanchion barn and much of the rest of the property needed some work after the couple took over.
“We had repairs to do when we bought it, and I had to add fencing around 40 acres,” Andrew said. “We did everything ourselves. We tore down what was caved in and fixed what we kept. We spent a good year and a half building fence when we had time to do it.”
The building that is now home to the general store used to be in the backyard, but Andrew poured a slab of concrete, moved the building out to the front yard and fixed it up.
They opened The Old Laughing Lady General Store on the farm in November. The store carries products from Harvest Moon Organics, as well as food, health and beauty products, art and books from local artists and other area farms, including Farm Sweet Farm, Maple Hill Farm, Pozarski Family Farm, Chippewa Valley Produce, Fizzeology Foods, B’s Bees, Cicha Acres, Red Circle Pottery, art from Jean Dressel and Madeline Stellick and knitting by Emily’s Grandmother Ellie.
“We’re trying to slowly add more stuff,” Andrew said. “We’d like to get to being like a health-food store.”
Harvest Moon is located just south of Cabin Ridge Rides and near several area apple orchards and wineries. The store is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment. Emily, who teaches in the Cadott School District, said store hours could expand in the summer.
“There’s a lot of traffic out here in the fall,” Andrew said. “This gives people the option to get local, healthy, organic foods and local art.”