Baby piglets play in the dirt at Avrom Farm. Ariana Hones photos
by Ariana Hones
While they have been college graduates for a year, the learning has not stopped for Olivia Delaune and Hayden Holbert.
And it won’t.
Life becomes the classroom when grandpa’s art gallery acreage is turned into a full working farm called “Avrom Farm.”
Holbert the owner and chief operator, and Delaune, the livestock specialist, met at Warren Wilson College near Asheville, N.C. Both were sustainable agriculture majors.
Holbert had spent much of his childhood on his grandfather’s land in Green Lake, where he would farm during the summers with parents John Holbert and Leslie Schwartz, who still offer field and technical support.
Grandson of local artist and educator Lester Schwartz, Holbert last year took over the farm, which under the couple’s leadership has undergone some radical changes.
Once a space mainly for art tours of Lester’s many sculptures and small plots for vegetable growing, the farm has expanded under the young hands of Holbert and Delaune.
Holbert focuses on the maintenance of the vegetables plots, growing potatoes, greens, beets and radishes.
“Basically everything,” Delaune laughed.
However, their growing process this summer is quite different than last year.
“There were three fields last year and they required a lot of physical labor because a tractor couldn’t fit between the rows,” Delaune said.
Now, the rows are much longer and have space for a tractor. This shift in setup speaks to the ever-innovating techniques of the duo.
While Holbert maintains the vegetables, Delaune works with raising the livestock.
Avrom Farm is home to laying hens, Freedom Ranger meat chickens and pigs.
Delaune walked the farm displaying the few week-old piglets, day-old puppies with eyes still closed and discussed the hilarity of “dealing with rogue chickens.”
“We are doing things so differently than last year,” Delaune said. “Our goal is to keep expanding, but we are still learning how everything works.”
Holbert and Delanue’s vision of bringing environmental consciousness, pastoral revitalization and restorative agriculture to the farm is reflected and nurtured by the legacy of Lester Schwartz.
“He was a real eccentric and interesting guy and he designed it partially as a gallery space,” Delanue said. “There is a huge terrace outside where he would have these wild parties. I have never seen so many glasses in the house, so many fancy cocktail glasses.”
Delanue, a Florida native, described her first winter in Wisconsin as “bleak and dark,” often feeling the need to sit by the Grow-lights in their basement where they cultivate mushrooms. However, she is excited to grow the Green Lake community in values of both Lester Schwartz and sustainable agriculture.
One avenue for this mission will take place Saturday, July 7 when the couple hosts the first Avrom Farm Party.
This family friendly party will include music by The Cajun Vagabonds, Jenny & The Hog Drovers and Hue. Dinner will be prepared by Avrom Farm and include produce and meats as well as New Glarus beverages. In addition to the live music, the event will feature wagon rides and kid-friendly games, as well as a farm tour. Guests can end the night by camping out on the property.
Tickets for this party may be purchased on the Avrom Farm website as well as at the Town Square Friday Farmers’ Market.
This party acts as just one way that Holbert and Delaune are shifting the narrative of farming in Wisconsin.
“At the end of the day, it is better food. It tastes better and is better for you, which is why I would encourage people to eat local,” Delanue said. “We are continually thinking about how we can use our animals to build soil by rotating them through vegetable fields and where can we use the things that we already have to improve the land.”
While challenges continue to be how to prioritize different farm tasks or to support the growing customer base, Delanue expressed the excitement that comes from experiential learning, growing and innovating.
Working on an organic certification for their vegetables as well as getting their farm approved by animal welfare, Delanue, Holbert and their supporting team of parents and interns carry on the legacy of Lester Schwartz — a man committed to the beautification and prosperity of the Green Lake area.
Standing with Delanue as Holbert drives through the fields in the background, it is clear that among the metal sculptures, eggs, and rows of potatoes, new energy is being tilled.