When I was a freshman in college, my Saturday running path led me right past a farmer’s market. Each week I observed patrons in the market, coffee cups in hand, canvas bags hanging on their shoulders, conversing with friends, neighbors or farmers, seemingly having a pleasant time.
This was my first impression of the connection people could have to really fresh food. At that time in my gustatory path, I ate uninspired dorm food – cereal at least two meals a day, some over-steamed vegetables and iceberg lettuce salads.
When my dorm time ended I had to make culinary choices for the first time in my life.
Connecting people with both their community and their environment is at the heart of what we do. One of the ways we accomplish this is through sustainable food programs like these!
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:
Stems Cut Flowers is a sustainably managed, fresh-cut flower farm specializing in green weddings and a seasonal flower CSA. Providing members with an eco-friendly and socially responsible alternative when choosing fresh flowers.
As owner and operator Emily Watson said “I graduated from UW Madison with a degree in tree hugging (also known as Biological Aspects of Conservation) which landed me a job with a commercial landscaping company and eventually led to a job in the floral industry. There were parts of both jobs that I absolutely loved. But I was uncomfortable with environmental practices that go on within both of these industries. I could not in good conscience continue to be part of it. So I started a business partly to protect my own well-being and partly to provide others with healthier alternatives.”
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.