Tom Oberhaus stands next to one of their Guernsey cows on their dairy near Waukesha, Wis. 
Tom Oberhaus stands next to one of their Guernsey cows on their dairy near Waukesha, Wis. PHOTO BY STACEY SMART

    WAUKESHA, Wis. – Every autumn, for more than 50 years, Cozy Nook Farm, of Waukesha, Wis., has welcomed the public to its doorstep. Fall is the busiest time of year for the farm’s owners, Tom and Joan Oberhaus, who sell pumpkins, gourds and squash along with corn shocks, miniature straw bales and other décor as part of their fall market. The couple also hosts field trips for more than 1,000 school children.
    Cozy Nook Farm is a pumpkin lover’s paradise, filled with pumpkins of nearly every color, size and shape grown on 20 acres.

    “We raise 60 to 65 different varieties of pumpkins in all different colors, shapes, textures and hardness,” said Tom, who milks 75 registered Brown Swiss and Guernsey cows, and farms 250 acres. “We also produce 10 to 12 varieties of squash and many varieties of gourds in all shapes, sizes and colors.”
    Opening day was Sept. 28, and the fall festivities will carry through until the end of October. Pumpkins color the front yard orange and overflow into a nearby shed, giving visitors a vast assortment to choose from. Guests can also go on a hayride, pet a calf, climb around in the straw mow and take a peek at the cows.
    Cozy Nook Farm was established by the Wendt family in the 1840s. Joan’s grandfather, W.L. Wendt, relocated the farm to its current location in 1958 after being forced to sell his land to the state for the building of Interstate 94. Tom, an Ohio native and graduate of Ohio State University, majored in genetics and worked in the A.I. industry for seven years before joining Joan at her family’s farm in 1985.
    Pumpkins have been gracing the fields of Cozy Nook Farm since 1962 when Joan’s parents, Jim and Kathy Wendt, began selling pumpkins to earn extra money they could set aside for their children’s college education. Their first crop filled one trailer, and, in the end, the pumpkin business put all four kids through college. Kathy started offering tours for school children at that time as well. Kathy can still be found helping her daughter and son-in-law pick pumpkins.  
    Growing approximately 1,000 jack-o-lanterns per acre, the farm sells tens of thousands of pumpkins each year. In addition to the traditional pumpkin in all shades of orange, the Oberhauses also grow specialty pumpkins like Austrian and French heirlooms, such as the gray-blue Jarrahdale. A favorite of bakers, the Jarrahdale is recognized as one of the best-tasting by pumpkin connoisseurs and makes a delicious pumpkin pie. The tan New England Cheese, bright-red Cinderella and white Cotton Candy pumpkins are also part of the mix.
    Indian corn in both large and mini varieties is another staple in the fall market. They also supply the corn to local pumpkin markets, which Tom said is a tradition.
    Cozy Nook Farm also offers educational farm tours and is booked every fall for field trips that include a one-hour farm tour, giving Oberhauses the opportunity to teach kids where milk comes from and other important facts about dairy farming. Tom and Joan also offer family tours in the summer.
    “Agriculture has a great story to tell, and we have to tell it,” Tom said. “Our tours allow us to do that.”
    The farm is open to the public seven days a week during the fall from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Tom said they are packed full on the weekends. The farm’s website and word of mouth are the primary drivers of traffic to the farm, most of which Tom said comes from the Waukesha area.
    Cows at Cozy Nook Farm never take a backseat to the fall hustle and bustle, as Tom is quick to say he and his wife are dairy farmers first and foremost. Twenty years ago, they converted the original dairy barn and put in a step-up, walkthrough double-4 flat parlor and added calf stalls for newborns.
     “We breed and manage for production, focusing on pounds of fat and protein,” Tom said. “We like the high components that brown cows produce, and in the winter months, we average over 6.5 pounds of fat and protein per cow while running over 8% solids.”
    Genomics are also important to the Oberhauses, who have put many bulls in A.I. and export embryos to Europe. Tom said their dream is to go to Switzerland to see the offspring of their cattle.
    “We also do a little showing, mostly through our work with 4-H kids who we let show for us,” Tom said. “We always take a string to the state fair, but the main reason we go is to promote our pumpkins. We’re actually more into genomics than showing.”
    A Brown Swiss named Cozy Nook Pronto Twylight is remembered as one of the farm’s most special cows. Twylight was the 2012 Wisconsin Cow of the Year and has had two sons and 15 grandsons in A.I. Her daughter, Cozy Nook Payssli Treacherous, has three sons in A.I., one of these being Cozy Nook Carl Trek. Trek is the breed’s No. 3 bull for Progressive Performance Ranking.  
    “We’re excited to have bred something with an impact on the breed,” Tom said of Trek.
    In addition to Tom and Joan, Cozy Nook Farm is run by the Oberhauses’ son, Charlie, who drives truck full time but also helps with field work, and Dan Gerrits, a neighbor to the family, who is a growing partner in the dairy.  
    In the winter, people continue to flock to Cozy Nook Farm to buy Balsam and Frasier Fir Christmas trees. The farm began selling a couple hundred trees in 1986 and now move 1,800 per year. They buy trees from northern Wisconsin to offer alongside handmade wreaths, garland and door swags.
    “Our specialties are cows, pumpkins and trees – in that order,” Tom said. “We take pride in that our real job is growing food for America. We sell enough pumpkins and trees to let us do what we want on the farm. It sustains us. We’re not filling the bank with money, but we can pay our bills. We’re one of only 11 dairy farms in Waukesha County and live in an area where it makes no sense to build a big dairy. So, this works for us. We do what we love to do and feel very fortunate we’re able to share it with the public.”