WISCONSIN RAPIDS — The struggle for small family farming operations to keep the doors open continues, not only for small dairy farms but also for other agricultural businesses.
Strong local support is important to keeping small farms alive, according to Greg Reinke, the owner of Reinke’s Down on the Farm, perhaps best known for its Harvest and Craft Festival, a more than month-long celebration that ended Oct. 31.
The farm offers school tours/trips and has had about 700 students attend this year but has welcomed as many as 1,400 in previous years.
“Although all these things seem like a great opportunity for the community, this year’s season has been much rainier and colder than previous years, which has resulted in a decline in attendance,” Reinke said.
One thing many people forget is how much work goes into running an agri-tourism business and farm, he said, and even after putting in all the hard work to make the venue look good, adverse weather can put a massive strain on the budget and the farm’s overall profitability.
Reinke said it’s important that, despite poor weather conditions, people continue to support local and family operations so venues such as his can continue to stay in business.
The Reinkes have operated the farm since the 1990s, but the farm has recorded history dating back to the 1850s when it was established under the Federal Swamp and Overflow Land Act. In 1855, the land was sold for a mere $300. During the Depression, the land changed owners many times for $1. The owner before Reinke purchased the farm in 1957 and stayed until he could no longer attend to the day-to-day operations.
From rhubarb season though frost, Reinke’s Down on the Farm offers a variety of produce, which is all grown on the farm and sold on their farm stand. Some of the produce includes rhubarb, apples, blueberries, onions, carrots, sweet corn, green beans, beets, pumpkins, tomatoes, and a variety of canned goods like apple sauce, soups, pickles and more.
Reinke’s Down on the Farm also offers wagon rides, tours, a spooky woods, crafts, live entertainment, games, photos, baby livestock in a petting zoo, pick-your-own veggies, and much more.
The farm’s mission is to help the community celebrate the fall harvest season through entertainment and education with wholesome family fun, as they experience life on a small farm.
In addition to running the operation, Reinke works full time at the local paper mill. He gets a lot of help on the farm from family and community members.
“One of our goals is to help preserve history so that people can see the old building, along with providing a variety of fun events and educational opportunities for guests throughout Wisconsin to enjoy. We feel it is also important to educate the public about these topics since more children are being raised off the farm today,” said Greg’s mother, Nathalie Reinke.
When Reinke purchased the farm in 1991, it consisted of 80 acres of which 35 acres was going to be turned into cranberry production, but by 1992, the farm opted to open its doors for agri-tourism. The farm helps support other local businesses by giving them the opportunity to consign items at the farm. They also assist local schools/youth groups by allowing them to participate and serve meals to help fund their future activities.
“By offering vendors a place to sell their products, we are able to help grow other local businesses,” Reinke said. “This year, the farm has approximately 15 vendors.”
Some of the products the farm carries for a variety of vendors include syrups, coffee, honey, jams/jellies, canned good and produce, mittens, aprons, crafts, homemade pies, pumpkins, gourds and more. Reinke’s Down on the Farm was the first residence to carry Urban Cranberry, now known worldwide as Mariana, in the 1990s.
The farm also features an educational learning center for children. The educational center teaches kids all about bees and pollination, the stages of a chicken egg before hatching and butterflies. Guest speaker Jesse Weinzinger from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources stopped by the farm Oct. 2 to talk about saving the Karner butterfly.
The center also has an antique washing machine and other household items so that the public can see what these items looked like before they evolved into the more modern appliances one sees today.
Schools seeking an interactive school trip for 2019 are encouraged to schedule dates for next year. Orders for canned goods, pies, some crafts and birdhouse gourds can be placed year-round. Produce also can be placed on special order for the growing season.