A victory for life on the farm

Animals, including the chickens in Vanessa Quinones’ arms, live well and organic vegetables thrive on the compact Victory Garden Farm she runs on five acres of rural Fredonia land. Turn to page 3C for the story.
Ozaukee Press staff

A talk with Vanessa Quinones quickly reveals her passion for growing fresh, healthy food and raising animals on a farm.

She knows about rotating crops, what to feed her animals and when to send them to market, and is learning more every day.

But Quinones isn’t the quintessential Midwest farmer whose land was passed down through generations of her family.

She was born in the Bronx, N.Y., and held jobs across the country before settling back in Wisconsin, just a few miles from where she graduated from high school.

Today, the member of the Grafton High class of 1992 runs Victory Garden Farm in the Town of Fredonia.

The farm is soon to be certified organic and is Certified Animal Welfare Approved, meaning animals are raised outside on a pasture or range for their entire lives using sustainable, animal-welfare practices.

“I love having the peace of mind knowing the animals I raise have had a good life,” Quinones said.

She runs the five-acre farm by herself, but gets help from her partner Andrew Wallock, a 1991 Grafton High grad and native of Alaska.

Quinones grows heirloom vegetables, such as kale, tomatoes, garlic, shallots and peppers, outside and inside two 72-foot-by-30-foot greenhouses, courtesy of Natural Resources Conservation grants.

Animals include egg-laying chickens, broilers and turkeys for Thanksgiving.

Her products are sold to restaurants and small local grocery stores.

Quinones also runs a community supported agriculture (CSA) operation in which people subscribe to buy eggs and meat or both for 13 weeks.

“You have to like this work because it’s hard work,” she said. “If you don’t like this work, it’s drudgery.”

“There’s an easier way to make a buck,” Wallock said. “I don’t know if there’s a more fulfilling way.”

She and Wallock bought the farm in 2015 when it was just a field and trees. They did everything by hand to clear the land and ready it for farming. Wallock built structures for the chickens.

Quinones quickly learned what to grow. She said she tried too many different vegetables during her first season. Carrots don’t do well in the heavy clay soil, which she gets tested every year. Fifty crops were reduced to 12.

Two dogs, Valor and General Patton, protect the egg-laying chickens. They live outside as guard dogs and have not lost a bird yet.

Valor is a maremma, a sheep dog that originated in Italy. Quinones got Patton, a Karakachan that originated in Bulgaria,  with a grant — five dogs were awarded from 150 applications.

A few geese live with the broiler chickens. They honk anytime a disturbance is nearby.

The farm’s name came from Quinones’ interest in Victory Garden posters from World War I and World War II. The government encouraged people to start gardens to help make up for food shortages.

Quinones still works as a massage therapist in Kohler but has been furloughed due to Covid-19. To earn income this spring, she started the Ozaukee County REKO ring Facebook group, an online farmers market.

Quinones and Wallock’s nontraditional career paths included stops around the world. The two were friends in high school before they went their separate ways for 20-plus years.

Quinones moved to Wisconsin when she was 5 and spent time on her stepfather’s parents’ farm. Her first jobs were working on horse farms, where she learned to bale hay and drive tractors.

After high school, Quinones worked in the hospitality industry in Arizona, Washington, California and Colorado. For five years, she worked as a massage therapist on cruise ships, visiting 60 different countries.

It was at sea where she realized she wanted to work on land. Her massage clients, she said, came in with all sorts of ailments, but Quinones noticed a trend.

“This could be fixed with food,” she said. “Food is medicine.”

Wallock had been doing some travel on his own. He joined the Air Force and later the National Guard, winning awards while on multiple tours of duty in Iraq before coming back to Grafton. He works in information technology and appreciates the serenity and gratification of farming.

The couple reconnected when they sat next to each other at a wedding dinner at Memories Ballroom in the Town of Port Washington.

Quinones graduated from the Stateline Farm Beginnings program and worked on four different farms to learn the tools of the trade.

A vegetable farm in Osceola taught her she would not limit herself to veggies. A farm in Cochran offered wood-fire pizza, an experience Quinones wants to create. An urban farm in Milwaukee provided a different experience and

Springdale Farm in Plymouth showed her how one of the biggest organic farms in the state operates. Owner Pete Seely still serves as a mentor, Quiones said.

Now, Quinones has her own farm and hopes to some day expand and make it her full-time job.

For more information, visit www.foodforvictory.com.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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