Mason farmer keeping it classic with horse-drawn tillers, cites numerous benefits

By KBJR News 1

June 1, 2014 Updated Jun 1, 2014 at 10:47 PM CDT

Mason, WI (NNCNOW.com)- Great Oak Farm in Mason is doing something different than your average farm. The fields are all tilled up for planting, but you won't find a tractor on this farm.

"There we go lady," said farmer Chris Duke, readying his horse for the day.

Duke is choosing to do things the old fashioned way. He's using draft horses and it's not because he lives an Amish lifestyle; in fact, he has many reasons

Duke says this style of farming is perfect for his farm because he has smaller fields and he gets to have a little bit of fun.

"When you can get work done and have fun at the same time that's pretty nice," smiled Duke.

Duke says it's fun because he can develop a working relationship with his tillers and as we've all heard, two minds are better than one. His tractor thinks which can help avoid large objects that could damage the steel implements used to break up soil.

But a big reason Duke uses horses is because he believes in having a self–sustaining farm.

"We've been certified organic for a couple years now, so closing the loop is what I've been really looking forward to," said Duke, "so we can grow their hay, buy in a little bit of oats and we're basically making fertilizer as a by–product."

Duke is also teaching his methods to two interns, and the word that is used the most when working with the horses:

"Patience," said Duke.

"This girl is way bigger than I am," said Gavin Harmon, an intern at the farm, "so I can't physically overpower her so I have to be smarter than her."

"Just working with them everyday, not betraying their trust and trusting them," said fellow intern Paul Karpinski, "it's a lot of work, but it's very rewarding."

...rewarding in a way that goes beyond getting work done.

"You put your energy into training that horse and getting them to listen, boy is there something satisfying at the end of the day," smiled Duke. "More than just getting the work done, more than getting that field dug, you feel it."

You can find produce grown at Great Oak Farm at farmers markets in Wisconsin or through the Lake Superior C.S.A.

Bryce Henry