Originally published March 27, 2020
Greetings from West Chester, Iowa!
I’m Natasha Wilson, the daughter in the mother/father/daughter team that makes up West Fork Farmstead. We are family farmers raising pastured animals, eggs, and raw honey.
My parents, Brian and Nancy Wilson, joined Nancy’s family farm operation in 1982 after both were laid off from their office jobs. While Brian and Nancy made their living for the past 35+ years raising pigs, corn, and soybeans, they’ve continually experimented with side projects and new methods. They love learning. They love caring for animals and soil. They love reusing and repurposing. Nothing gets thrown away, nothing is wasted, and they continually search for new ways to be better stewards and caretakers of their land, animals, and resources.
I grew up on the farm and, to be completely honest, couldn’t wait to get out. I hated hog chores, loved traveling, and wanted to see the world. I majored in International Studies in college, spent a semester abroad in Chile, and took a job in foreign policy after graduation. I traveled. I worked as a university advisor in international programs. I dreamed about doing human rights work. I went to law school. I worked in Tanzania. I moved around, practiced law.
Throughout all of this, I always felt a sense of peace when I came back to Iowa and back to the farm. I love our rolling hills and open spaces, the glow across the fields when you’re out just before dusk. I love the vibrant green of spring grass in our family’s orchard; the burnt brown of our cornfields in fall; the winter snow on branches in the woods by our house; our clear views of the purples and reds and oranges of summer sunsets and the bright nighttime stars. In short: I love home.
A couple years ago, I started talking to my parents about the possibility of me moving back to work with them on the farm. It seemed like a crazy idea to everyone at first, myself included. We all knew that if I did come home, we’d want to do something different with the farm. My parents have dreamed of transitioning to a regenerative model on their farm for decades. We all remembered how, randomly, when I was in college, the three of us went to an organic farming conference in Indianapolis. The seed had always been there. We talked about possibilities. We brainstormed endlessly.
One day, my mom posted a quote on their fridge: “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” I knew then we were in.
In October 2019--more than 17 years after I graduated from high school and left the farm--I moved back with my husband, Zach, our 3-month-old daughter, and our cat, Bartleby. Soon after, my parents and I launched West Fork Farmstead, a new venture that brings together their many years of farming experience, my problem solving and professional skills, and our shared passion for working as good stewards of our land to make healthy, high-quality food accessible to everyone in our community.
That is to say: my parents are experts at raising really good food. And I have the incredible privilege of being here to learn from them and get their food to you.
We currently have laying hens, heritage breed pigs, grass fed cattle, ducks, geese, bees, and all kinds of garden beds. We raised our first batch of meat chickens last year, loved eating them, and will raise more this spring and summer. We’ve planted fruit and nut trees. My parents converted nearly 60 acres of farmland into pasture, where we are raising animals and regenerating the soil, making it healthier and better able to capture carbon, retain water, and grow plants. Our dream is to convert our whole farm. Our goal is to raise the healthiest, highest quality, most delicious food possible and make it accessible to you--our neighbors and community.
It’s an incredibly difficult time to make any claims about what we plan to do a year, a month, even a week from now. We all have heightened stress, much of it shared, but much of it also unique in its own ways to each of our families and lives. Some of my siblings work in healthcare and are at risk every day when they go to work, as so many of you are, too. Other members of our family can’t work right now. We never know what the future holds, and that feels particularly true at the moment. But more than ever, we are reminded how important it is to make sure our community has access to safe food. We are here, we are planting, we are tending to our animals, and we are working to be part of making sure everyone around us is nourished and fed.
We look forward to bringing great food to you. Please sign up below for our newsletter to stay up to date as we continue to grow this new venture and bring new products to you.
Be safe, stay well, and thanks for being part of our community.
Yours in food,