Willow-Witt owners Suzanne Willow, left, and Lanita Witt share a moment with their baby goats at their farm near Grizzly Peak Friday. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Stewardesses of the Land

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it?

Suzanne Willow: We primarily raise goats and have gotten into raising pigs more recently. We've always had laying hens and we're now raising broiler chickens. We're developing a line of sausage and we sell live animals, meat and eggs. Secondarily, we make and sell compost. We've been doing this since 1985.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley?

We moved up here in 1985 from Napa, Calif.

What inspired you to go into this line of work?

We found this magnificent piece of land and thought we should use if for something. We have 440 acres of which 100 acres are wetlands, another 78 acres are in wetland restoration and 25 acres are pasture. The rest is conifer forest.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again?

We used to raise a small herd of cows. We have excluded cows from our property; we did that two years ago. I think I would have done that earlier. When we got rid of the cows we were able to begin doing wetland restoration. There's a conservation reserve enhancement program run by the federal Farms Services Agency. The agency basically rents the land and it's excluded from grazing, including our goats. Also, I would have been a little more assertive in marketing.

What's the toughest business decision you've made?

Borrowing money for capital improvement and to make a decision that will pay off. We did a large remodel on our 1920s barn last year. It was functional, but it is infinitely better now. It will pay us off in the long-run. We did it through our conventional lines of credit.

Who are your competitors?

There is no one else growing organic pork for sale in the valley that we know of. There are other people selling milk goats and milk, but we we're able to sell everything we make. It could be that other people will get into it.

What are your goals?

To grow our business so it is sustainable on the piece of land we have. We're at 4,600 feet elevation and still have a lot of snow on the ground. We're not able to grow our own grain. That's a sustainable feature we deal with. We have to balance what we produce with not over-using the land. We have 30 goats and four pregnant sows. Because of the barn remodel we're gradually increasing the goat herd. I see us having 50 to 60 goats at any one time. During the winter we have a smaller number and then have a lot of babies to sell later in the year. We're hoping to market our sausage directly to restaurants. We already market pig and goat products to restaurants.

What training or education did you need?

Neither of us has any education directly related to this. The extension classes we've taken have been our best education. We've been working with small firms through Oregon State University Extension Service. We've been in a cooperative with people we took in a risk-management class through the extension. Besides that, reading books and talking to people have been the most helpful. We both have degrees in the medical field.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs?

You have to desire and willingness to work at it. Talk to people who are in similar fields.

To suggest an idea for this column, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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