RUDOLPH, Wis. – Holden Flaig lives the concept of diversity – from solar to grazing to aquaponics to pizza.

Flaig, 30, has successfully integrated solar power into his family’s organic grazing-based dairy farm near Rudolph. He’s also started an aquaponics enterprise that includes the production of romaine lettuce and other mixed salad greens for Farm Time Out Aquaponics. Four 200-gallon tanks of tilapia provide nutrients for the salad greens, which are on floating rafts beneath grow lights.

The farm markets its produce at several Wisconsin outlets – the Stevens Point Farmers Market, the Wausau Farmers Market, the Stevens Point Area Co-op and Family Natural Foods in Wisconsin Rapids. The tilapia are sold fresh on ice, ready for filleting.

Flaig was the recipient in 2009 of a scholarship provided by Midwest Renewable Energy Association. After the training program he went on to work for Photovoltaic Systems LLC in Amherst, Wisconsin. Photovoltaic Systems is a contractor for solar-electric systems. They site and install residential, commercial and industrial solar-electric systems throughout central Wisconsin.

It was while he worked there that he designed and helped install the solar system on the family dairy and budding aquaponics setup. He said after the panels and aquaponics system were up and running, the electricity bill remained the same. In essence then, the panels provide enough electricity to drive the new aquaponics operation. The solar array fits atop one of the farm’s storage sheds. Flaig said it produces enough electricity for the needs of three average homes.

His father, Carl Flaig, was born and raised on the farm. The father-son duo have many irons in the fire.

  • The farm is located in the middle of the Paul Olsen Wildlife Area. They work with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in different capacities concerning wildlife habitat and water quality.
  • The farm is currently the subject of a study by University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point on the impact of grazing on soil biology.
  • They are involved with the DNR on a study to control canary grass and other invasive species in order to improve habitat for prairie chickens.
  • The Flaigs are part of a pilot program for growing hemp in the state. They have dedicated 1.5 acres to growing a variety known for its increased cannabidiol content – CBD. Holden Flaig said the program is a study. Annual reporting of results and experiences in growing the crop are required.
  • And a wood-fired oven and mobile pizza wagon is also in the works.

Within the Flaig farm 208 acres are in a grassland-reserve program; another smaller portion is in the wetland-reserve program. Those areas can’t be row-cropped; they must stay in continuous grass. The farm is visited by different university groups at least four times per year to walk the fields and experience a grassland farm.

“They come to see how we’re holding water and nutrients while building soil,” Carl Flaig said with pride.

The Flaig operation is a testament to diversification – and to working with nature to produce food and enhance grassland habitat.

Visit www.facebook.com/FarmTimeOutAquaponics for more information.

Greg Galbraith’s life has unfolded like a country song. He and his wife, Wendy, came from the city to buy themselves a farm. They did right by it, keeping it in grass from one end to the other and grazing colorful cattle on it for 30 years. After transitioning to organic production they sold the farm to a local dairy couple. Greg Galbraith kept a favorite tractor and other loves of rural life, including 20 acres of his grandfather’s original farm with a sugar bush and cabin. From there he will continue to write about the evolving rural landscape. Visit www.poeticfarmer.com for more information.