Welcome to Brabender Century Farm!
We’re located in the little village of Ashton, WI, just a few miles northwest of Madison, though our address is 6991 County Road K, Middleton.
We’ve had some smiles when people hear our family name, “Brabender.” It’s not what you think. A Brabender (or Brabander, as it was spelled at the beginning) is simply someone from Brabant, a province of The Netherlands that still exists today. So, our very early ancestors were Dutch. Eventually they found their way to the Cologne area of Germany, and farmed around the small villages of Butzheim and Nettesheim.
It was from Butzheim that Christian Brabender, our great grandfather, emigrated to Ashton in 1857. Here he married Cecelia Klein who had emigrated from Germany in 1855. Together they bought 40 acres, their first piece of the farm, in 1859. Five years later, in 1864, their farm had grown to 120 acres, the same as today. So, that’s how the “Century” and the “Farm” parts got into our name. The farm has been in our family for over a century.
Christian and Cecelia didn’t have much when they started. They lived in a log house for the first few years. Around 1865 they built a house of limestone, with walls 20-inches thick. They added a barn and a granary to hold their animals and their feed, and dug a well by hand.
Their family grew, too. Christian and Cecelia had seven children. One of their five sons, Hubert, our grandfather, married Ursula Statz. They had 13 children, including our dad, also named Hubert. He married Rosalia Friedl and together they had six kids, including us, Wayne and Debra, the current owners of Brabender Century Farm.
We proudly represent the fourth generation. Since 2011, we’ve been painstakingly remodeling the buildings. Our limestone home has been beautifully restored, though we did “modernize” with insulation (it had none!) and air conditioning (it had none!).
Our dairy barn, which was on the verge of collapse five years ago, now stands tall and majestic with its new roof and coat of yellow. This is actually the third barn on the farm. The first, built by Christian and Cecelia in the 1860s, was small but served the family well until 1908, when it was turned into a shed for farm equipment. It was replaced by a much larger barn, which featured stalls for 12 cows, a number that seems miniscule by today’s standards. But when you’re milking by hand twice a day, 12 cows seemed like plenty. Unfortunately this second barn burned to the ground in 1942, due to spontaneous combustion of the fresh loose hay in the haymow.
Our 1880s granary, where our family stored tons of barley, wheat and oats over the years, has been restored and makes the perfect venue for still life photos and other works of art.
The landscaping has improved markedly in the past five years, too, though we have more to do. We’re taking our time and creating a plan as we study native and German vintage landscaping and gardening. We’d like to stay as true to our German roots as possible.
Why are we doing all this? Because the farm has been good to our family and we want to share its beauty and charm with others. We feel blessed to be living here. We’re determined to be good stewards of this place, preserve it, and share it with photographers, artists, and others interested in experiencing rural life.
Look around and you will see the dying of small family farm America wherever you go. Barns like ours are disappearing almost every day. Small family farms are being gobbled up by development or by much larger family or corporate farms. Large farms have no need for small barns like ours. Such barns are inconvenient. So they bull doze them and put up characterless, metal structures in their place.
There is nothing wrong with progress, even in rural America, and we know we can’t stop it. But we think that with some creative thinking, some hard work, and some good luck, that we can save at least one of these old places to be enjoyed by visitors like you, and even future generations of visitors and family members. To make that happen, we collaborated with the government a few years ago to establish a conservation easement here, which means Brabender Century Farm will always be a farm and it can never be divided or developed.
Our remodeling is just the latest step in saving this old place. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy having you visit us.