This special property seemed to be waiting for us to fulfill its destiny.
A privilege of place.
John and Judy McHugh purchased the current farm in 1994 from Gundersen Hospital which was donated to the hospital by Ross and Friend Nelson. Previously, the McHughs farmed 100 acres of sandy farm land they purchased back in 1973 just north of Holmen, WI. It was the family’s dream to have flat and fertile ground to work. John and Judy’s son Patrick and his family moved to the current farm in 2005 while they continued to manage it. In addition to farming, John worked as a railroad conductor at BNSF for 38 years to help support the family. Judy was a dietician at Gundersen Lutheran for 35 years. The McHughs have cared about food and nutrition for decades and they apply that passion to everything they do on the farm, combining classical farming practices and techniques (including the organic farming they are doing for the distillery) with modern day technologies.
Patrick and his family continue to grow their farming operations, which is now at over 900 acres, despite the devastating loss of their father John to cancer in 2010. Patrick and his mother Judy continue to run the farm with help from the rest of the family and their employees. They feel blessed to be full-time farmers now which has been a lifelong dream. The family feels fortunate to do what they love in such a beautiful place. Patrick’s wife Jocelyn and daughters Alayna and Evelyn all help and support the farm’s work. It’s a true family farm! They strive to constantly get better while balancing quality with quantity. They are excited about this new chapter of organic farming for La Crosse Distilling Co.’s spirit production.
We met Patrick McHugh and his family in late 2017. Immediately we felt we found someone that shared our passion for the ethical treatment of land and the importance of co-evolving as a people in harmony with the natural environment – which has been a major goal of ours throughout this process of developing our distillery and its’ processes. We feel fortunate to be able to partner with a local family farm that has the ability to meet our production needs, get things done in a responsible way and utilize organic heirloom ingredients. Starting out, McHugh Farms will grow almost 100 acres of rye, wheat and corn exclusively for the distillery. We couldn’t be more proud of our association with Patrick and his family and we are honored to be partnered with them on this exciting journey.
Good stewards of this diversified farm.
Small and mighty grains.
Paul Bickford started farming his land as a confinement dairy in 1978 with 250 cows. In 1992 he established pastures and started rotational grazing with 350 cows. In 2011 he sold the cows and left dairying, and plowed under pastures for organic corn and soybeans.
John and Halee Wepking come to farming with a background in food and restaurants. They met cooking at a restaurant in NYC called Prune. In 2014, they made the decision to leave the big city and return to southwestern Wisconsin to try to farm his family’s land. With no opportunity to farm John’s family’s farm imminent, they found employment with Paul Bickford on his certified organic farm in Ridgeway.
Since hiring John and Halee, the plan for Paul’s land has shifted to focus on small grains and limited row crops, both for food and feed. Together they are committed to farming the land organically and growing crops that have superior nutrition both for people and animals.