Along the banks of Lowery Creek which runs North through the Jones Valley, down into the Wyoming Valley - home of Taliesin - our family farm is nestled in a sweet spot of the rolling hills of Southwest Wisconsin's Driftless Region. Local old timer's know our farm as the old Stapleton and Kraemer Farms, but over the last 50 years, with passion and humility, the land is now known as the Cates Family Farm; transitioning now into the third and fourth generations.
Dick Cates Sr. bought this farm from the Stapleton's in 1967 as a place for his kids to work - to learn the lessons of physical and manual labor. All of the Cates siblings spent their summers making hay, riding horses, swimming in the ponds, drinking beer in the woods, and falling in love with this beautiful valley.
After many childhood summers making mistakes, doing things backwards, and calling the neighbors for help (or the neighbors calling him for help), Dick Cates Jr. moved west to get his Masters in Soils in Bozeman, Montana. Under the Big Sky, he and his wife Kim longed for the lifestyle of cattle ranching on the open range with the majestic mountains as their backdrop. But higher education eventually brought Dick and Kim back to Madison for him to pursue his PhD in Soils and Kim her Masters in Soils/ Land Resources. As the saying goes, "absence makes the heart grow fonder," they found themselves in love with this land - deciding to marry themselves to it as it's caretakers in 1987.
Over the next nearly thirty years, the landscape of this farm has blossomed from a 110 acre thistle patch to a beautiful perennial grassland. With a strong ethos of conservation, and Aldo Leopold as a light, they have treated the land as a family member - actively working in harmony with animals to care for it.
In the Spring of 2016, Eric and Kiley Cates decided to move back to the farm to be the next generation of stewards of this precious land and to begin the steps of taking over as caretakers. Eric has roamed, played, worked, and cared for this land alongside his parents since he was four years old. It's rare to have a young farmer who knows more intimately the topography and seasons of the land they work. And so, with the same strong ethos of conservation, the Cates Family Farm moves forward...