Retirement is anything but dull for Wayne Hass, a rural Eden resident who spends a good share of his day outdoors tending to his 'Garden of Eden' organic vegetable farm.
He sells his produce locally to various restaurants and stores. In addition, those who desire freshly picked vegetables can go to the Garden of Eden to purchase them. Vegetable varieties include beets, Swiss chard, kale, squash, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, lettuce, peppers, onions and tomatoes.
Hass, 68, retired five years ago from a 40-year career that focused on overseeing the smooth operation of hospital facilities, electronics/electrical systems and plant operations. His electronics training began during a four-year stint with the Navy. Later, he received technical college degrees in Biomedical Electronics and Computer Science and a Business Administration degree from Marian University.
Raised on a dairy farm, Hass and wife Kathy currently reside on a 20-acre portion of the family farm purchased from his parents, Leona and the late Gordon Hass, in 1978.
His passion for growing organic foods began with popcorn long before he retired.
'My initial endeavor occurred in 1986 when I planted open pollination popcorn — which means you can harvest the popcorn and use it to pop and eat or use it as seed for next year's crop,' Hass said. 'My wife and I love popcorn. It's the most interesting crop I grow, and we have several varieties such as black, white, baby rice and strawberry popcorn.'
His first venture beyond popcorn happened in 1992 when he began growing Indian corn and pumpkins for The Little Farmer Orchard near Fond du Lac. Organic vegetable production began in 2013 as his 'retirement hobby-job.' Four of his 20 acres are used for the vegetables and popcorn he grows at his Garden of Eden. Mingled in are a few hops he plants for his beer-brewing hobby.
In addition to open garden space, Hass uses a high tunnel house, which functions as a type of greenhouse. It extends the growing season, protects plants from harsh weather and allows for tall equipment to fit through the doorways.
Hass also raises sheep.
'My parents raised the same kind of sheep,' Hass said, noting two goats have been added as well. 'The goats will eat the invasive buckthorn that's being a pest on our property.'
Since expanding his business to include organic vegetables three years ago, Hass has been seeking the advice and expertise of Robyn Calvey, owner and operator of Park Ridge Organics — a considerably larger operation that grows 40 different kinds of certified organic vegetables. Located northeast of Fond du Lac along state highway 151, Park Ridge Organics offers a vegetable share program that has mushroomed to 290 members.
In addition, vegetables are available for sale at Park Ridge Organic's on-site farm store and at various businesses and farm markets. They currently have seven employees, 20 volunteers, a farm market crew and an intern.
One of their interns was Hass; Park Ridge Organics has been an educational opportunity for him. Last year while serving as an intern, Hass gained an abundance of helpful information he could use to improve his Garden of Eden. He continues to volunteer at Park Ridge Organics to learn even more.
'Robyn is my mentor,' Hass said. 'She has helped me learn the timing of planting and harvesting, where to purchase seeds, and how to use natural pest control in order to be considered organic. I am very appreciative of her expertise and willingness to help me.'
Hass' eagerness to learn is what impresses Calvey.
'Wayne came to the farm every week last season with good questions and outstanding observation skills,' Calvey said. 'He wants to learn more and improve on his own operation. I want him to do just that and hope to help him find the most efficient way to do it.'