Black Rabbit Farm – The Story of Two Young, Wisconsin Farmers Starting from Scratch

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When you hear about young people running a farm, it’s usually someone who’s been farming their entire lives. A parent or other relative typically passes on responsibility to the next generation, and they simply continue in their family’s footsteps.

It’s not often you find people who transform their lives in order to start farming from square one.

But that’s exactly what a young couple in Amherst is doing. And you can help them grow as they persue their dream of running an organic, sustainable farm.

Native Wisconsinites, Tommy and Samantha Enright, moved to Seattle, Washington after they got married. They met at UW-Milwaukee and decided to venture out, “basically just to make a change in our lives.” Tommy told me.

They had both been to Seattle before and liked the city. Plus, it was the perfect place for Tommy to start his career in the music industry. He booked concerts and became an on-air DJ on a popular, listener-supported radio station. Sam worked as a Medical Assistant.

Tommy and Sam spent five good years in Washington state. But while they were there,  they discovered their major passion for local, sustainable food and organic farming. “Seattle has got a great system of farmers markets – every neighborhood has one.” Tommy says.

He also told me Seattle definitely has that buy local, support local mindset – and it grew on them.

“It makes sense no matter where you live. When you buy local, you’re supporting your own community.” Tommy explained.

The more the Enrights learned about where their food came from, the more they wanted to grow it themselves. “We were becoming tired with city life anyway, so it seemed like a good time to pursue our dream.” Tommy said.

You know what that means….it was time to move back home to Wisconsin! Where else would anybody want to start a new organic farm?

“We have roots here.” Tommy said. “It’s a great place to grow up. Both of our families still live in Wisconsin.”

organic-farms-in-WITommy also points out that Wisconsin has a thriving organic food movement.

We are actually second in the country for number of organic farms! With around 1,200 farms and counting, only California tops Wisconsin when it comes to organic farms.

I wonder what that number is today? Plus, Wisconsin is way smaller than California, so I’m pretty sure our state deserves a ton of organic farm credit.

Yet another great reason to be glad you live in Wisconsin. You just might be eating grass-fed meat without even knowing it!

Starting An Organic Farm By Scratch – With Zero Experience

Tommy and Sam were determined to start this farm from scratch and learn everything they needed to in order to make it a reality. Although Sam grew up on a sheep-focused hobby farm, Tommy had zero experience in farming or agriculture.

It was during their last year living in Seattle when he really started to get some hands-on experience.

“I read everything I possibly could about farming, started working at an urban farm supply store, and interned on an organic hog farm north of the city.” Tommy said.

When the Enrights got home to their native Wisconsin, they found a farmhouse with a story of its own. The house was in rough shape and sat abandoned for some time. Built in 1856, it was one of the first houses in Waupaca County.

There were even plans to destroy it for a highway expansion. But another local couple, who wanted to save and restore the house, moved it three miles down the road. In 2013, it became Tommy and Sam’s new home – and Black Rabbit Farm was born.

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“We had no equipment, no fencing, and no livestock, but we had energy and passion for what we were doing.” Tommy says.

They were ready to do everything in their power to make this farm a success, and their neighbors were ready to lend a helping hand too.

“We still had a lot to learn and made our share of mistakes, but fortunately we moved to an area with a strong farming community and have been able to get support and knowledge from our fellow farmers.” Tommy said.

They are constantly talking with other farmers about how to improve the local food system on farm and off. Tommy is also the Vice President of their local Wisconsin Farmers Union chapter.

Now, just two years after moving home to Wisconsin, Black Rabbit Farm is starting to take off.

Take a Look Inside Black Rabbit Organic Farm

Tommy and Sam currently raise their own rabbits, chickens, turkeys and ducks as well as grow lots of veggies.

You’ll find their livestock enjoying life, grazing around their native Wisconsin pasture, which also includes a mix of clover, alfalfa and grasses.

Tommy and Sam follow organic farming practices. All of their poultry are fed certified organic feed and sprouted grains and vegetables left over from the market.

At this point in time, they haven’t been able to afford the cost of acquiring organic certification. However, that’s not stopping the Enrights from choosing to completely avoid the use of potentially harmful chemicals on their garden or feeding their animals growth hormones.

The Enrights do use plenty of compost and sunshine to help build their soil! They also use organic seeds and do quite a bit of seed saving, too.

“When you start thinking about where you’re food comes from, it’s easy to slide down the organic/naturally grown rabbit hole – one thing leads to another…” Tommy explains.

So whether they are certified organic or not, their farm is just about as close as you can get.

Rabbit – A Tasty Underrated Meat

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Have you ever tried rabbit? I admit I have never tried it, but I’ve heard it’s a little like chicken or pork, but a meatier texture. If you’ve had it before, leave a comment and tell us what you think it tastes like.

With rabbits being fast breeders, you’d think we’d be eating a lot more of it. I wonder why it’s so underrated? Some people call it the Easter Bunny Syndrome!

But rabbit meat is one of the most unique parts about Black Rabbit Farm – hence the name.

Tommy says they are turning the meat focus toward rabbit because he thinks it’s the most sustainable livestock animal. He says rabbits will produce six pounds of meat on the same amount of feed and water that it takes a cow to produce one pound.

“They have a relatively low environmental impact, their manure is exceptional for compost, they are prolific breeders, and their meat is healthier than any other major available meat,” he explains.

Besides having the highest amount of protein per pound, rabbit is lowest in fat and calories per pound than all of the other animals on this list:

  1. Pork – 2,050 calories
  2. Beef – 1,440 calories
  3. Lamb – 1,420 calories
  4. Turkey – 1,190 calories
  5. Chicken – 810 calories
  6. Rabbit – 795 calories

The rabbits on Black Rabbit Farm eat a diet supplemented with certified organic rabbit pellets as well as brassicas like rape and kale, which the Enrights grow themselves.

Right now they raise five breeds of rabbit, but mostly a heritage breed called Silver Fox, like the one pictured on the left.

If you live in Northeast Wisconsin and want to give this meat a try, you don’t have to drive all the way out to Amherst. You can actually find Black Rabbit Farm meat at the Waseda Farm Market in West De Pere.

Do you have Easter Bunny Syndrome, or are you willing to give it a try?

In case you do, here are some great hints and tricks for cooking rabbit from Rise And Shine Rabbitry.

The Black Rabbit Farm Greenhouse Project

The Enrights have another plan in the works. This year, they really want to grow more veggies!

They are hoping to build a greenhouse so they can start seedlings in spring, hot weather crops and flowers in the summer and continue growing food when the Wisconsin winter sets in.

The greenhouse will also give their rabbits a warmer place to stay in the winter, where their water won’t freeze soon after being filled.

A greenhouse can help the Enrights solve many of the current challenges they face on their farm.

Check out their video to learn more about the Black Rabbit Farm Greenhouse Project.

How You Can Help Support Black Rabbit Farm

The Enrights have worked very hard to make a positive difference for the sake of local food in Wisconsin.

In addition to putting all those hours in on the farm, they both still have off-farm jobs. They also became parents recently, adding what they call a “young farmhand” to the mix.

“One day, we dream to have our farm sustain us financially, or at least make up half our income.” Tommy told me.

There are lots of ways we can show our support to this Wisconsin organic farming family.

Here’s how you can help:

Like the Black Rabbit Farm Facebook Page to find updates on where you can find their farm goods or to help spread the word about what they’re doing. Or, simply because you think they’re awesome for doing what they’re doing!

Try some Black Rabbit produce and meat. You’ll often find them at the Waupaca Indoor Market, but they have plans to attend more markets in the near future. “We also sell on our farm – anyone is welcome to come to our farm to buy our meat and produce, provided that they give us notice beforehand.” Tommy tells us.

Here’s where you can find their farm:

Black Rabbit Farm
4977 Keener Rd.
Amherst, WI 54406

715-513-0460

Contribute to their Black Rabbit Farm Greenhouse Project on KickStarter. They’re trying to raise $5,500 from supporters.

If you back the project you can receive rewards like official t-shirts, hats and mugs. A $1,000 backer even gets some livestock naming rights!

Plans For The Future of Black Rabbit Farm

Tommy and Sam are taking it season by season, but hope to eventually add bee hives and hogs to the farm. They also have plans to offer educational opportunities in the community.

“The more people know, the more empowered they are to impact change and perhaps become more self-sufficient. Tommy says. “If everyone knew how to grow food for themselves, the less they would rely on industry and the less hunger there would be in the world.”

We can all help make a difference in Wisconsin just by showing them our support!

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Comments

  1. How great to see people pursue their dreams and we surely need more farmers. I’ve never eaten rabbit because I had rabbits as pets, but maybe someday?

  2. Good for them! When I move back home, I’ll definitely patronize their business. I’ve had rabbit, but it was so long ago that I don’t remember what it tastes like. It sounds like the smart thing to do, but I don’t think I could because I have rats and hamsters for pets. (I’ve also had muskrat, because that’s a thing here on the Eastern Shore of MD, but just a bite, and it didn’t go down easily for that same reason.)

  3. Great to see all of this healthy food being produced locally, and to see the lovely home they have created (from the abandoned historic house that used to stand next to the old Highway 10). I have enjoyed the eggs from their free range chickens and wish this couple continued success!

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