Paul (from left), Marisa and Cecelia Maggio sit on a favorite spot at Starry Nights Farm in Wheatland (Gail Peckler-Dziki/The Report).

Kenosha County’s first organic beef farm is a family affair

By Gail Peckler-Dziki
Correspondent

Starry Nights Farm is an idyllic name for an idyllic place. It’s not named after the famous Van Gogh painting, however, but after the observations of Cecilia Maggio, daughter of Paul and Marisa Maggio.

The family, including 2-year-old Corinna, moved to the area from Chicago and Cecelia was astounded by how many more stars are visible where there are no city lights.

The Maggios currently rent in Powers Lake but will be moving to the farm, located on Highway KD, just south of Highway 50.

Paul worked in the Chicago agricultural futures market. He realized the need for another plan during the financial crisis in 2008.

As he considered other options, Paul thought about where he had grown up, in Kenosha County. He moved from agricultural futures to what he and Marisa consider the future of agriculture.

“We intended only to farm from a distance,” Paul said, “but wanted whatever was produced to be organic.”

When they couldn’t find any farmers to rent the land that would be organic, “we decided a move was in order,” Paul said.

That was two years ago this coming fall.

Starry Nights Farm is the first organic, humane, free-range grass fed beef farm in Kenosha County.

Marisa is the chief financial officer and handles the social media marketing. She is a CPA and has been a yoga instructor and a health coach and is very focused on healthy eating.

Next-door neighbor Butch Lois has been very helpful, according to Paul Maggio. “At first,” Paul said, “he was wary of us, wondering if we had development plans.”

As the Lois and Maggio families have gotten to know each other, they have begun to work together, sharing resources.

“Butch has more equipment than I have,” Paul said, “and helps with haying. Some of his cows graze in our pastures. That makes them organic, grass fed and free range. We market those animals for him.”

When Paul got there, the green pastures of today were just dirt. They had to be replanted and nurtured.

There are about 20 5-acre paddocks where the 120 head of cattle the Maggios have graze on a rotational basis.

“That way,” Paul said, “there is no overgrazing. When the vegetation is grazed about halfway down, we move them to another paddock.”

Moveable, electrical fencing is used. Paul heads out to the field to move the fencing every few days.

Looking out over the herd, people can see three donkeys frolicking among the cattle, sometimes kicking up heels with the calves.

Why donkeys? Paul said that the only predators that threaten his herd are coyotes.

“The donkeys don’t like the coyotes and keep them away,” he said.

There is a 111 year-old farmhouse on the property. The Maggios plan to salvage as much material, like wood and stone, as they can, before they demolish it.

They plan to rebuild a new house on the footprint. They plan a passive house that will add a net zero to the environment by using solar capture, insulation and water conservation features.

Starry Nights Farm produce is available throughout the Chicago and Milwaukee areas. Readers may visit starrynightsfarm.com or check out Starry Nights Farm on Facebook.

 
 

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