Whelen’s Wild Roots Family Farm
How long do you hold a vision when inspiration hits? Nine days? Nine weeks? Nine moths?
How about nine years? That’s what Charles and Gina Whelen did before establishing Whelen’s Wild Roots Family Farm in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
It all started when starting a family kick-started Charles and Gina into the sustainable food movement. They began making better food choices for their babies and in turn, themselves. The more they learned, the more inspired they became. Gina’s growing love for healing herbs began talks of “what would it be like to have a farm?”
Where most of us go house-hunting, the Whelen family started farm-hunting. It was no small task. Farms are not readily available. When they are, they are expensive. Undeterred, the Whelan’s listed their house for sale. And waited. And waited. And waited. 18 months later, after much soul-searching, re-evaluating, and doubt-conquering, their house sold. But still no farm to move to.
With only two weeks left in their third short-term rental, and no farm in sight, panic could have easily set in. The frustration of moving with little ones, running an organic hair salon and carpentry business, and the discouragement of two failed farm purchases could have derailed the best of dreams. That’s when Gina felt a calm inner-knowing. Something good was going to happen.
She opened an email from her realtor and saw a new listing. It seemed unfeasible for so many reasons. And yet. And yet there was that familiar tug in the heart that led her and Charles to go to the open house. That spark of knowing that this place felt “at home.” That bravery to put it all on the line and write an offer that they knew could easily be rejected. But it wasn’t. Not only that, the owner’s generously invited the Whelen family to move in three months before closing. All this within two weeks. All this with vision-holding, faith and fortitude.
A few years later, after sacrifice, exhaustively hard work, and more determination than they thought possible, the Whelen’s are raising pastured heritage breed hogs, chickens, ducks, and beef. They sell their top quality products to the public as well as to wildly popular restaurants like ID, Braise, Odd Duck, Amilinda and others.
And this is just the beginning. Gina and Charles are transitioning the farm to a permaculture model where open pollinated pastures of organic corn will have free-ranging hogs and beef cattle, hay paddocks will be grown for animal nutrition and soil health, and medicinal herb gardens will be available to attract pollinators and pick-your-own CSA membership.
A new barn is in the works for culinary herb and flower processing, community events, workshops and farm-stand sales. Chefs from the area are being invited in for future farm dinners. Remodeling, restoration, and renewal drive Gina and Charles forward. Sweat, and sometimes tears, make it happen. With nine-plus years of vision-holding, Whelen’s Wild Roots Family Farm is living proof of inspired action and inspiration for all.