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Woodbridge Dairy protects environment, practices principled farming

John and Karin Uebbing utilize organic methods and effective waste-runoff system to produce grass fed beef, pork and poultry. Their meat is available at the Fulton Street Farmers Market.
Michelle the calf gets friendly with the camera.

Michelle the calf gets friendly with the camera. /Amy Hinman

About Woodbridge Dairy Farm

Located: Byron Center


Specializes in: Grassfed beef, milkfed pork, duck and chicken eggs.

Farmers Advice: Keep supporting local farmers! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and know what your farmer’s doing.

Where to find them: The Fulton Street Farmers Market


One of "The Girls" on pasture at Woodbridge Dairy Farm.

One of "The Girls" on pasture at Woodbridge Dairy Farm. /Amy Hinman

Karin and John Uebbing first decided to change over their farm, Woodbridge Dairy in Byron Center, to certified organic  in 2004. The initial motivation, they say, was financial.

“Originally the drive was money. When the money didn’t pan out, what happened later panned out better,” says self proclaimed "farmers wife" Karin Uebbing.

When Karin and John Uebbing married in 1999, they bought the family farm John Uebbing had grown up on. They farmed using the chemicals and pesticides that were quickly becoming standard in the industry. 

In 2004, the couple decided to look into organic milk. They began the certification process, working for three years to convert the land and cows to organic. When the time came to become officially certified, "someone bailed," and the Uebbings were left with an organic farm and no papers to prove it. 

"We decided since the land did so well using no chemicals, we decided to stay [organic]. It was a good thing to do. It took the three years getting the land to where it needed to be, to really see the comeback of the ground," says Uebbing of the entire process. “John said, ‘why are we going to waste our money on chemical fertilizer that’ll just kill [the ground] anyway?’ We got a better quality crop all the way around."

Even though becoming certified organic didn't "pan out," Uebbing decided that Woodbridge Dairy Farm could do it without the certification.

"For the piece of paper, and everything you have to do to maintain that piece of paper, I decided I could do what I wanted to do without [it]," Uebbing says. 

John Uebbing was content with raising dairy cows, but Karin Uebbing "needed something else to do." As a result, their farm expanded to include ducks, pigs and chickens, all raised as organically and sustainably as possible. Each cow has a name, and when Uebbing walks through the barn, she remembers them all. In addition to their grass fed beef, the couple works together to produce milk fed pork and duck and chicken eggs, all available at markets like the Fulton Street Farmers Market

“John is the background guy,” Karin Uebbing says of her husband. “He’s the guy that’s working when no one else is here. He makes things operate.”

Operating on a small scale has allowed for other experiences besides the reward of farming itself. Woodbridge Dairy was recognized by several environmental agencies for their innovative waste runoff control system behind one of the barns. What looks like a simple concrete slab, the paved strip diverts run off that would have originally run into a stream.

In addition to their work as a self-sustaining family farm, the Uebbings partner with their neighbors, lending and gifting everything from tractor wheels to calves.

 “The smaller farms tend to stick together. Some of the larger farms would rather shoot you in the foot than help you out,” Uebbing says. “But the local farmers in this area would rather help. And we repay them. If there’s something that they need we do what we can. It all works together. It all comes in full circle.”

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