My life in Soil began in 2014, a coworker of mine (Will) had been willed a diverse 156 acre Farm in Thorpe, Wisconsin.
For Will the search was on, how to create a sustainable living on a farm. Traditional farming wasn't going to work. Will discovered Dr. Elaine Engam, her work brought the significance of Microbiology into our lives. Her research showed us that microbe excretions have always been the richest food source for root systems. We then realized the more Microbial Life in the root system, the healthier the plant.
After searching through a handful of Sustainability Conferences, Will finally found a farmer (Edwin) that was creating Microbial Life in western Illinois. Will approached me about his trip to Edwin's Farm South of Rockford. My first thoughts were, "Will, you're nuts." I'll never forget when he asked me to make the second trip. "If you still think I'm crazy at Edwin's, then I won't bother you again."
I'll never forget pushing my forearms into the middle of a perfectly controlled humus compost wind row on a cool March Morning at the Farm. Humus is the environment that microbes can thrive in. When I pulled my hands out, they were sweating. At that moment I was hooked. Later that day I viewed a few slides and a video of microbes eating bacteria and fungi around root hairs.
Our exploration for potting soil and soil amendment recipes was now on our forefront in Thorpe. At this time we already had 9 Herefords on a high-density graze, 30 free range heritage chickens, and 10 pigs. That Spring and Summer we held a yield competition with popular vegetable seeds to find the best recipe. By Fall we had our highest yield blend.
By 2015, my Business Partners and I created Western Wisconsin Organics. We had our products for sale at the Tosa Farmers Market. At the time I was Substitute Teaching for Milwaukee Public Schools. One fateful Monday morning in September I was teaching at Pulaski High School. It came to my attention that if I was a student, I would be just as miserable and disengaged as my class. Just the day before I was up at the Farm. I connected the Young Scholars with the environment of the Farm and a lightbulb turned on. "Let's get our Young Scholars to the Farm!"
In 2016, we connected with Mr. Gaulien Smith, an Eagle Scout in Milwaukee, he brought 8 Boy Scouts from Troop #2 with their Eagle Scouts to our Farm in Thorpe. Still to this day, it was the most endearing weekend of my life. I needed more!
In 2017 I created a Curriculum for Schools. The first School to trust me was Sharon Junior Academy. I began April 5th, I knew that day I was creating something special. The engagement that I get surprises me every time.
In the Fall of 2018 my Partners lost interest and we dissolved Western Wisconsin Organics. In December 2018 I created Everything Grows LLC. I am now in four Farmers Markets (Tosa, Shorewood, Near West Side, Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market), and four stores (Ace Wauwatosa, Downer True Value, Stone Bank Farm Market, Rushing Waters), and two Schools (Lincoln Elementary, St. Jude The Apostle).
Due to the virus my appearances in Schools have been canceled, but Nell (my Co-Presenter) and I are working on a video for the Young Scholars. My Stores are open and I'm offering free delivery.
As you can see my World was slowly created around me as I worked. Thank you so much for spending the time to learn more about me.
- Shea Zastrow, Owner