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The Riverside Park Center was bustling last Saturday! The 11th annual Local Farmer Open House attracted approximately 1,000 people to our Riverside Park branch to meet local farmers and learn about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Visitors chatted with 17 local farmers as the farmers enthusiastically shared information about their farms, their philosophies, and the food they grow. The workshops, including: Introduction to CSAs, Cooking from Your CSA Box and Multiple Biological Effects from Low Level Pesticides in Foods, were packed and people were enjoying good food and good conversations throughout the day. Thank you to the farmers, the presenters, the food trucks, and to all of you who attended. Hope to see you next year!

Take a look at these photos from the event:

Steve Levsen, his wife Andrea and their three children are the family who founded and run Stoney Meadow Farm. Their organically-grown produce flourishes on more than 10 acres. With a combined 50+ years of farming experience, they grow a wonderful, carefully chosen variety of vegetables, fruits and herbs picked within hours of making their way into your kitchen. Some of the distinguishing features of Stoney Meadow include: 16 week peak season CSA Farm share program, extended season share option as well, accommodating members’ vacations, not using black plastic on their crops, focusing on education and nutrition, offering a weekly newsletter/blog, farm tour and picnic, and various payment options.

Like a number of farmers drawn to what is often referred to as the "local food movement," Sandy Raduenz and David Kozlowski of Pinehold Gardens were not born into farming families.  In fact, they left their full-time "office" careers in their 40's to pursue this physically demanding yet rewarding vocation.  They became owners of their farm in 2004 yet have offered a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program since 1995.  

They work to provide the freshest, highest quality fruits and vegetables, educate members and nonmembers on sustainable food and energy issues and illustrate the importance of community in our food system.  They are motivated by this commitment and the opportunity to make the world just a little better.

JenEhr Family Farm has been offering CSA shares for 15 years along with sales at farmers markets, to natural food cooperatives and area restaurants. As Wisconsin natives and growing up on farms, owners Paul Ehrhardt and Kay Jensen understand the soil and infrastructure needs in growing healthy organic produce year round. Everything in their CSA share is grown at the farm, from early summer strawberries and blueberries to late fall broccoli and spinach. Using early season hoop houses, deep well irrigation and complimented with an incredible farm crew, JenEhr offers organic, sustainable and nutritious produce from April to December with informative weekly email newsletters. Every pickup site is staffed by someone from the farm to answer any questions about the items in the share.

Running an organic CSA farm takes a lot of people. And while it's easy to talk about Kay and Farmer Paul from JenEhr Family Farm, they'd prefer to talk about the folks doing the hard work involved in bringing produce to members each week.

Old Plank Farm is in its fifth year as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm offering sustainably grown produce, eggs and poultry to the Milwaukee area. The farm is located on 25 acres in Sheboygan County in the town of Plymouth.

Stephanie Bartel owns and operates Old Plank Farm. Prior to beginning this farm five years ago, she worked for several years at a neighboring CSA, Springdale Farm. With her excellent crew of interns, Stephanie is excited to be able to provide CSA boxes for nearly 200 families this coming season. She lives and works at her 25 acre farm year round, taking care of the laying flocks in the winter, and endlessly reading and studying ways to improve her land, farm and produce each year.

For Jill Holstine, owner and operator of Rubicon River Farm (RR Farm), fresh, healthy food plays a role in healing the body as well as the soul.

Jill was working as a marketing director and used gardening as a way to “decompress”.  Then she began experiencing health issues. She started RR Farm as a hobby in 2009 because she realized she needed to turn to people and soil to heal. Her hobby and garden grew from a ½ acre to 3 acres in a few years.

“My health concerns ended up to be worse than I originally thought and food became a major part of the healing process,” said Jill. “I have always enjoyed cooking, gardening and talking to others about food, health and the importance of eating local. I have been an avid organic gardener for years, but on a much smaller scale! My current diet consists of organic fruits and vegetables, gluten free and dairy free products and I don’t eat meat. For all of these reasons, I feel that I can connect with my members on a variety of levels. Some members also have health concerns, some want to improve the eating habits of their family and some currently eat healthy but want to eat local. What could be better than local, fresh food that provides a farm-life experience for members?” she said.

Janet Gamble, owner and operator of Turtle Creek Gardens (TCG), has been farming for 30 years and operating CSAs since 1994. Janet has a strong educational and non-profit background in sustainable, organic and biodynamic agriculture which forms her extensive knowledge in her farming practices and management. Turtle Creek Gardens is a new farm that Janet built up from scratch, converting a conventional farm to an organic certified farm. “We chose the CSA model because of the unique social economic model it serves and the ability to connect people with their food.  It also encourages people to cook by offering healthy, fresh and nutritious food choices.  It’s a way to promote a healthy lifestyle and preventative health plan,” said Janet.  In the three years since the beginnings of Turtle Creek, it has grown to serve 150 CSA members and has solid accounts with area restaurants. It is a primary local supplier for Good Harvest Market in Pewaukee, as well.

When Steve and Kath Vogelmann purchased their 80 acre farm near Campbellsport 15 years ago, they never dreamed they would end up as full time CSA farmers. At the time, Steve was self-employed in the construction industry and Kath was a wildlife artist.
But everything came together in the right combination of talents, skills, and experience, along with their passion for healthy food and love of the natural world.

Steve was born up north in Merrill, Wisconsin where he gained a lifelong love for nature, especially the north woods where he went for long walks with his father. Kath’s Dad spent his early life on the family farm, acquiring a deep love for the natural world—which he passed on to all his children. Kath’s Mom was a gourmet cook and a lifelong perennial gardener—and she infused her children with a love for good food, and a sensitivity to the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

The story of HighCross Farm goes back to 1975, when Steve and Kath rented a farmhouse on a former dairy farm and planted a huge organic garden, which yielded a bumper crop of veggies. But since local work was hard to find, they returned to the Milwaukee area for the next 23 years.

Will Moyer is the new farm manager at Wellspring in Newburg, WI. Though he may be new to the job, he’s an old hand in the garden.

“I have spent most of my life with both elbows deep in rich soil. Starting as just a babe spending long summer days in my Grandpa’s market garden, I have cultivated a love for small scale, sustainable agriculture. Some of my earliest memories are pulling sugar snap peas right off the plant in the spring and popping them into my mouth after the old, one-two swipe on my Oshkosh overalls (just like Grandpa),” said Will.

After keeping his hands dirty with one farming or horticulture job or another he attended the University of Michigan where he studied Sustainable Agriculture and Water Development and minored in Environmental Geology. While he loved schooling and the voraciousness with which he consumes knowledge hasn’t wavered, he knew that after graduation he needed to get some real world growing experience. He spent the next few years interning and working as a farm hand at several different organic farms throughout the Eastern and Midwestern United States. He would follow the growing seasons, finding himself moving south in the winter and north as soon as the days began to really lengthen, in an attempt to constantly stay busy and learn, learn, learn. He was able to work with some great farmers with well-run operations who not only shared with him their farming practices but their personal farming principles. It is through this kaleidoscope of growing experiences that he has developed (and continues to develop) his own farming philosophies.

For Steve Young and Debra Jo Becker of Rare Earth Farm in Belgium, Wisconsin, “farming isn't something you do when you feel like it- it's a lifestyle.” The pair, who described themselves as a couple of happily married farmers, have over twenty years of experience growing crops and caring for the land. According to Debra Jo, “if you don't care for your soil first it almost isn't worth bothering to care for your crops- especially over the long-term.”

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