Olden Organics: a 100-Acre Farm for People and Dogs Alike
We interviewed Richard and Tracy Vinz, owners of Olden Organics in Ripon, Wisconsin, about running a certified organic farm, and how a tragedy changed how they think about her pets’ health and happiness.
Edible Communities: Tell us about Olden Organics. What's your vision, and how did you get it off the ground?
Tracy Vinz: We started our farm as Olden Produce 12 years ago. At that time we owned and operated a nursery, landscaping, and tree care business that my husband ran and then I worked full-time off the farm. We had been selling at a farmers market for a friend and wanted to grow and sell our own produce. We inherited my husband's grandparents’ farm and so Olden Produce was born. We wanted to farm the way that the generations before us did, without chemicals. The first year we only did 1 farmers market and had 18 CSA members. Today we do 4 weekly farmers markets, have about 175 CSA members, and sell our produce wholesale to local groceries, restaurants, schools, and daycare facilities. We employ 2-3 year around full-time employees and have 10 additional seasonal full-time/part-time employees. We are also now Certified Organic and have since changed the farm's name to Olden Organics.
Edible: And you have three Australian Shepherds! What are their names and how did you end up with them?
Tracy: We fell in love with the Australian Shepherd breed when I was managing a horse farm in Green Bay and they had an Aussie. Our first Aussie adopted us in 2005. We unfortunately lost him to cancer 6 years ago. We now have Adelaide age 7 (blue merle female), Brizbane age 5 (red merle male), and Sydney age 6 months (black tri female). We hope to breed Sydney to Brizbane once she is old enough just once. We would love a son of Brizbane's. All of our Aussies are amazing in their own way but Brizbane is one of a kind. He was born the day after our first passed away. He was not being sold by his breeder as she was going to keep him to be a part of her breeding stock. Once she heard about our loss, she decided that he needed to be with us more than with her. You could say he has been spoiled since birth. He was his mother's favorite, breeder's favorite, and now as much as I try not to show favoritism, he is my baby. There is one rule on the farm, and that is no one yells at Brizbane. So yes, very spoiled!
Edible: Have your pets ever inspired your work, and how?
Richard and Tracy: They inspire us every day. With the sudden death of our first Aussie, Melbourne, from cancer, it really made us take a step back and really evaluate what we were feeding our dogs as well as what we were putting on their bodies. We have made a lot of changes to their diet, as well as their veterinary care. The 3 that we have are thriving. They also get a lot of certified organic veggies as well.
Edible: What do you and your pets do for fun? What's their perfect day?
Richard and Tracy: For fun, we love to take the Aussies canoeing. However, with 3 now it is a bit of a challenge. Their perfect day is any day with the both of us and our undivided attention. The breed is often referred to as the Velcro Dog. That is so true. They are the happiest when they are with their humans.
Edible: How does your work influence how you think about your pets' health, diet, and happiness?
Richard and Tracy: Being certified organic means a lot to us and it gives us a sense of mind that if our dogs happen to steal a veggie that they are eating something clean and free of synthetic herbicides and pesticides and is not genetically modified. Being that they live on a 100-acre farm, they get a lot of exercise. Adelaide and Sydney are the resident hunters. They love to go after rabbits, mice, woodchucks, and anything else that they can catch. Brizbane on the other hand hates birds so he is constantly keeping a watch on the bird situation and chases them off whenever he can. We are very sensitive to our Aussies’ happiness so we really try to limit the amount of time that we are both away from the farm at the same time so that they do not have to be home alone inside and can be outside as much as possible.