Meet The Modern Farmers: Suzanne Willow and Lanita Witt
By Rachel Levin on December 22, 2014
Photograph by Daniel Cronin
It was winter in Ashland, Oregon, when Suzanne Willow (right) and Lanita Witt happened upon a freshly plowed path near Grizzly Peak. They followed it.
“We saw a For Sale sign pointing to nowhere,” recalls Witt. “We drove down and found forest land buried in four feet of snow — and an old farmhouse, built by a Swiss dairy farmer back in the 1920s.”
A few weeks later, the physician assistant (Willow) and OB-GYN (Witt) plunked down $5,000 and became the owners of 440 acres. That was 30 years ago.
“My mom said ‘absolutely not,’ ” says Witt, laughing. Her parents grew up in a German farming community in Texas. “She told us to keep our day jobs.”
And they did. The pair worked full-time even as they amassed a roster of livestock, raised with the help of their daughter Brooke (who has since moved away). Today, the 100 percent off-the-grid farm has Berkshire pigs, goats and chickens. Their sustainably raised meat and dairy are beloved by the Ashland food community.
For the first nine years or so, they ran the farm themselves — in addition to performing their “real” jobs. They also practice sustainable forest management and run a wetlands restoration program.
“We’ve worked our patooties off,” says Witt, now 64, who is still full-time at the hospital and sells Willow-Witt’s products at the local farmers market. “We have worked to have this land. We are stewards of it. And every day, I come home to heaven.”
They now have three employees who help with the chores and what has become a booming agritourism business. So booming that, for the first time since 1985, they expect to break even.
Adventurous souls book the studio and Meadow House in winter for cross-county skiing and stargazing. In summer, there’s a private campground and cozy canvas tents. Guests cook whatever they pull from the overflowing garden and a freezer stocked full of goodies like goat sausage and pasture-raised pork. Lanita also leads goat-packing trips in the Cascades-Siskyou Wilderness.
The off-season — at 5,000 feet and in below-freezing temps — is their time to relax by the fire.
“We play Scrabble, read books, look after pregnant animals,” says Witt. “It’s a beautiful life.”
See the original article at http://modernfarmer.com/2014/12/meet-modern-farmers-suzanne-willow-lanita-witt/