Chris Peterson, owner of Mapltwin Farm, said the farm was named when his parents, Jon and Sandra, started registering cows in 1960 at their 40 acre farm near Cashton, Wisconsin. Their chosen name – Mapletwin – was taken, so Jon dropped the “e” and it’s worked ever since.
Chris was born with a passion for farming.
“Farming is almost bred into a person … something you grow up with and can’t get out of your system,” Chris said.
Today, the farm operation is 1,200 acres with 550 registered Holsteins. “Being a farmer is never boring. … I’m a veterinarian, electrician, carpenter and a counselor some days. Two days are never the same — some are better than others, but for the most part it’s a wonderful way of life.”
In the early days, a beautiful stanchion barn worked for the smaller operation, but the Petersons built a free stall barn with a double 12 parlor in 1998. Chris said the barn improved production by increasing cow comfort. “They’ve got it nicer than their owner — getting fed before I do every morning, and they don’t have a care in the world!”
The Petersons grow corn, hay and alfalfa for feed and haven’t used an ounce of commercial fertilizer in 20 years — they rely on manure from the lagoon.
“I don’t know if we have peaked with our technology and precision planting, but I can’t see how much more fine-tuned it can get. It’s great when it works — but I have a machine shed full of tractors built in the 1970s that still work. We always have a plan B, C, and D,” Chris said.
Chris works alongside his parents and his wife, Betty is an accountant who handles the books. “In the farm world, if you don’t stay on top of your financials, you’ll be up a creek.” Chris and Betty have four grown children: Eric is the herdsman, Jacob handles the machinery and Sarah takes care of the calves and herd health. Their youngest child, Rachel, attends the University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point. “It’s an honor to be with my family on the farm every day.”
In addition to family members, the farm team includes a veterinarian, a nutritionist, a milker who monitors each cow and helper who oversees the parlor operation. Ron Brown, Foremost Farms field representative, is available anytime to help out where needed. “The folks at Foremost are helpful and upfront. They stay on the cutting edge of paying for the product — that’s worth a lot! The CEO and upper management there
are second to none and are steering the ship in the right direction.”
Mapltwin Farms also consults other experts as needed. About six years ago a sinkhole on the edge of the farm emerged, so Chris reached out to the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to seek a remedy. “They had to dig 25 feet before they found the crack in the bedrock,” Chris said. “The engineer was amazed by how nature created those perfectly round tunnels, all 10-15 feet from the surface and coming from other sinkholes.” The geology of the region is conducive to sink holes, and Chris recalls filling some of them in the late 1970s. “I still get a funny feeling when driving over them.”
Chris also serves as a resource. Mapltwin Farms and about 80 volunteers hosted the Monroe County Dairy Breakfast this past June, with 4,300 attendees showing up in one day. Chris feels it’s important to provide opportunities for city dwellers to visit the country, enjoy breakfast, learn about animal care and modern farm technology. “Some think we still use pitchforks and wheelbarrows — there is more technology on this farm than they imagined.”
“We need to find ways to educate people about where their food comes from. I’m hoping my kids will take over the farm. They know how to run this place to keep this way of life going.” The newest family member, Christian Timothy, was born the day after the Dairy Breakfast. Chris wonders if the baby will follow in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather to carry the farm into the next generation.