On the Farm . . . what's happening this week
There isn't much exciting to tell you this week. Some of the past week's tasks include processing the last batch of broiler chickens, planting spinach, arugula, kale and turnips for fall and winter, mowing, weeding, sorting and preserving tomatoes, and harvesting for share boxes.
I assume all of you know us, and while that is true, for the most part, with members in our local communities, it isn't for everyone. I'll take this opportunity to tell you a little about us.
Bill and I both grew up on dairy farms in southwest Wisconsin but didn't meet until I took a part-time job bartending at a steak house in Spring Green where he was a prep cook. We were merely work acquaintances until a year later. Each of us ended other relationships, and I started waitressing meaning we were now working together in the kichen. Bill brought his parents in to eat one night. I happened to seat them and noticing Bill's wallet falling out of his back pocket, I impulsively grabbed it. He turned and caught me. I laughed, and he jokingly admonished me. It felt like we saw each other for the first time. A few months later (Bill was shy, and I had to convince him I wasn't a snob) he took me out to eat. We hit it off, and a relationship was born.
Looking back, I think we recognized a mutual longing in each other to live and work on a farm someday. It didn't hurt that Bill was tall and dark like my dad, and his mom thought I was "cute" and "spunky." She once told Bill he should hang on to me because I would stick with him no matter what - even if he decided to become a rodeo clown! I thought the comment silly when Bill told me but years later, and Margie no longer with us, I realize how wise she was.
Bill and I were in no hurry to officially commit - both being gun shy after experiencing long relationships that painfully didn't work out. We waited four years to buy a farm and get married, celebrating at the steakhouse.
Bill had an interest in raising animals, especially exotic birds, so he started a pet business. When Liam joined us a couple years later, we decided it wasn't dependable enough to support a family. Bill converted the dairy barn to accommodate goats, and we started milking them commercially. Two more children later, we needed to expand our goat herd to be financially sustainable but didn't want to become owners of a big, impersonal farm.
We were at a crossroads - what now? We sold most of our goat herd, and Bill and I tried off-farm jobs. He thought about becoming a cheese maker, even taking a class and working at different cheese factories. However he wasn't sold on the idea. At the same time I was becoming more focused on changing our eating habits and providing healthy, nutritious food for us and our growing children. I was approached to sell my handcrafted goat milk soaps and Bill's maple syrup in the Spring Green Farmers Market. Bill had always dreamed of our farm being a modern homestead - providing much of our own food supply. And as a homeschooling family, we longed to make our living on the farm so we could be home with our children.
All of these factors led us to start our CSA shares. That brings us to our recent history. Bill and I are committed to our marriage, working to remember the things that brought us together and our common goals even when we become impatient and frustrated with each other. We are committed to giving our kids a childhood experience rich with a sense of place and filled with lessons gleaned from hours spent outside in the natural world. And not least of all, we are committed to growing nutrient-rich, safe food for our family and our members' families.
Our CSA has grown from 5 members in total that first year to 53 members with various types of shares throughout the seasons this year. Our future goal is to support 75 to 80 members. This has definitely been a growing year for us. We were accepted into Fairshare CSA Coalition in Madison and are being certified organic (official notice should be received by the end of the month). We revamped our website and newsletter incorporating recipes and have enjoyed the biggest membership jump so far. We've felt some growing pains along the way, and while we can see our progress, we are not satisfied yet. We want to improve because we know we can do even better.We need to continue conditioning of our soil to consistently grow quality vegetables, fine-tune planting schedules, better anticipate water needs of different crops, and better share information about vegetables in boxes. We are continually stimulated by the excitement of learning new techniques from seasoned farmers and challenged to determine how to incorporate that information on our farm.
We enjoy working together (Bill is still tall and I'm still spunky) being joined by our children, Liam, 16, Aidan, 11, and Marlee, 9, when they wander out to help with harvest, bring us a water bottle or just say, "hey." We are fulfilled watching them ride their bikes out to graze on our pesticide-free vegetables. With the sun shining on their shoulders, they pick handfuls of peas and cherry tomatoes, search for cucumbers, hunt for the perfect watermelon,and fingers deep in the dirt - dig carrots chattering with each other and eating their prizes. I try to sear the pictures in my memory to pull out someday when they are grown, and I am old and tending a small patch of ground.
We are thankful for this life and for all the farm members who have chosen to share the season with us. Without you, it wouldn't be possible. Thank you.