Pecatonica Valley Farm is a family-run beef, poultry and pork farm. The Carr family has operated the farm for 20 years. Amy Carr, who married into the family, has headed the marketing end of the business for the past three years. "The Carr family started farming thirty years ago," she explains, "and we started the business ten years later." Today, most of the work is done by Amy, her husband and his two brothers, and their father. It's really a three generation operation, though, when Amy gets her children involved, too.
Luckily, you don't have to take a road trip to Hollandale to discover what Pecatonica Valley Farm has to offer. The family has been selling their products at the downtown market for the last 18 years. They offer a wide range of meat products, from whole chickens, to brats and braunschweiger, to steaks, roasts, and hamburger made from pasture-raised cows. Popular sellers are pork snack sticks, which come in barbeque, black pepper, and chili flavors.
Per Carr's recommendation, I tried the chicken bratwurst. I took home a package of 6 brats for $7.50. The texture was less dense than that of a traditional pork brat, but every bit as flavorful with pleasant herb tones highlighting the fresh chicken. These brats are perfect for lighter meals, and would add great variety to any grill-out.
Pecatonica Valley Farm is perhaps best known for its fresh chicken eggs. They sell for $3.25 a dozen and are packed fresh every market morning. Pecatonica has also just begun to sell bib lettuce, which is grown in the farm's hydroponic green house.
Carr has ideals other than just selling their meats, eggs, and lettuce, though. He says they care about feeding people well and "reducing the number of food miles it takes to do so." All of the farm's animals are raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics, and are fed only grain that was grown on the farm. All the animals are kept outside during the day and given plenty of room to move around.
Pecatonica Valley Farm keeps its production local, too. They work with a local meat processor, of New Glarus to create their brats, sausages, and other packaged products. Also a family-owned and operated business, it has been their primary processor for years. "Hoesly's has really helped us develop our recipes and modify our brat-making process to help make our products what they are today," says Carr.
The Carrs take pride in their traditional farming methods. All the labor is done by hand, from feeding animals to washing and packing eggs. "It does take a lot of hard work," says Carr, who explained she and her family often begin work before sunrise and don't finish until after sunset, "but it's also really exciting." They intend to remain small and family-run to preserve the quality of their products.
Aside from offering their goods at farmers' markets, Pecatonica Valley Farm also sells to several Madison restaurants and other businesses. They supply Greenbush Bar on Regent Street with all of its pork, beef, and chicken, and have collaborated with the restaurant to develop the recipe for its featured Italian sausage. Among others restaurants, the farm's products show up on the menu Bradbury's and the Washington Hotel Coffee Room. The farm also supplies on Saturdays and the Middleton Farmers' Market on Thursdays. And if you are willing to take that 40 mile road trip to Hollandale, the Carrs encourage that and are happy to facilitate farm tours.