Fork. Spoon. Life. Terry Groth

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Terry Groth was born into the farming life, and he takes great pride in his 225 acres. Still, it has been only a little more than a year since he quit his day job to work the farm full time.

He can see the traffic on Highway 45 from his house; hence the name he gave the farm: Farm 45 LLC. Years ago, the Town of Polk property was known as Groth Family Farm, home to dairy cows. Today, the fourth-generation farmer raises lambs and goats.

He doesn’t do farmers markets. Instead, he prefers direct sales, primarily to chefs, restaurants and groceries where he gets to know his customers. Among the spots you’ll find his meats are Braise, Meraki, Bavette and Good Harvest Market in Pewaukee.   

Groth and his wife, Christine, will once again host dinners on the farm with Dave Swanson and Braise, June 16 and Sept. 22. For information, go to braiselocalfood.com.

Farming in the family

I was born into this. It has been in my family for generations. I would be the fourth- generation owner. That’s pretty much it. It is difficult to get into, it is expensive. I just happened to be born into it.

We milked cows until the early ’90s. We stopped milking then. My dad sold the cows, then he did cash crops for years. When he was aging out of it, able to do less and less every year, that’s when I started doing more. I decided on sheep because I can handle them myself instead of 1,500-pound animals vs. me. Sheep and goats are a bit smaller.

Getting his goats

I buy from goat dairies, and raise those up for meat. I also have a small herd of my own goats that give birth and raise their babies. My cousins have a dairy near Fond du Lac. A couple years ago I said, what do you do with the buck kids?

They said, “You want a couple?” Sure.

My contacts with the restaurants where I was selling lamb, they said “Oh, you have goat? We’d like to buy them.” Really? So I started raising them.

Going goat

It is a widely consumed meat throughout the world. We are seeing more of it in Wisconsin. Is it because chefs are trying new and different proteins? Is it because we have this huge goat herd in Wisconsin? I don’t know.

Making his move

I was born into it, but did go to college. I worked professionally for 25 years, but I always lived here. I never left the farm. I went to college for teaching, taught for a few years. Then I worked in sales for the next 20-odd years.

When I started picking up more on the farm, years ago, I was looking for something where I could do the direct marketing of my livestock, the lamb and goat. I have to take a few people out of the supply chain. Supplying direct to restaurants was kind of my plan.

Becoming a full-time farmer

In the last year or so, it finally got big enough. My dad was dying. I thought he’ll need help, so I pulled the pin last year (and left a full-time job), told my mom I’ll be around the farm. My dad passed away Dec. 12 in home hospice on the farm.

There are two houses here, my house and my parents’ house. I was able to help out. If you go back 10 years, my father was doing more. It was a family transition.

Direct sales

I work mostly with restaurants and chefs, but if somebody says I want a lamb or a goat, I will sell them a lamb or a goat. Absolutely … I will take it to the butcher. You call and have the conversation about how many chops, etc. and how you want it wrapped, then you pay me. That’s about 5% of my business.

Point of pride

I can get a protein from the farm to the largest city in the state and it will have under 30 food miles on it.

His home cooking

There is enough fat in lamb that you don’t need to add additional fat, but you can for sausage. I make merguez, brats, breakfast sausage. I use it like you use ground pork, and if we’re doing pizzas I make the Italian sausage out of ground lamb.

I use it the same way as you use any red meat. Because that’s what I have. It seasons very well, just like beef.

I don’t just eat lamb. I buy a whole hog from a neighbor. I also buy a quarter side of beef from my neighbor. We raise a couple chickens every year, just for ourselves.

Secret to his success

My wife, Christine, it wouldn’t be fair not to mention her. Behind every good farmer is a wife who has a job in town.

Fork. Spoon. Life. explores the everyday relationship that local notables (within the food community and without) have with food. To suggest future personalities to profile, email nstohs@journalsentinel.com.

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