West Lawn Farms was started by my great grandfather Weber West in 1917 with just 11 Brown Swiss cows that he brought all the way from the East Coast to Sarona, Wisconsin. Early farming was tough, my grandfather and his sons had to clear the land to be farmed, cutting the trees, sawing them into boards, and selling the lumber. The land then had to be prepared for crops by blowing up tree stumps with dynamite. What started as just a couple of acres grew to hundreds over the following years.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s my grandfather Laverne and his brother helped their dad grow the farm into a major dairy and potato growing operation. They grew over 500 acres of potatoes each year, requiring three warehouses in Sarona; two for potato storage in the fall and winter, and the other for seed handling. At potato harvest time, six trucks were kept busy hauling spuds from the field. The storage warehouse held 165 rail car loads of potatoes; ready to be washed, graded, and bagged for market. On the north side of the farm was the 730-acre beef cattle and purebred Brown Swiss milk cow division. Milking 50 cows per day, and putting up 200 tons of hay a year for feed.
My grandmother, Elfreda West has worked on the farm her entire life. She did everything from sorting potatoes to helping to manage the operation, specializing in the business accounting. While my mother, Janet Donatell (West) grew up on the farm milking and feeding cows, she left the farm to go to college but later returned to help her brother Mark during harvest and potato packaging. Mark, with the help of his son Adam continue to operate the farm today.
Although I did not live on the farm growing up I did get to visit often, especially during the years my mom returned to work on the farm. I used to love riding in the semi-trucks out to the field to get loads of potatoes, returning to help sort the rocks out of the loads before being piled in the warehouse. More importantly I learned early on in life the value of a hard day’s work and how to cook food right from the field. I remember watching my grandma hand patty hamburgers and cook fresh cut fries with the skins still on them. These cooking techniques, and family recipes were used in developing our menu. Thank you for choosing the Farmer’s Grandson Eatery, we appreciate it very much!
Tony Donatell and Family
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