The Farmers Behind the Food: Jill Holstine, Rubicon River Farm

Written by Jamie Ferschinger
    Tuesday, 05 March 2013
The Farmers Behind the Food: Jill Holstine, Rubicon River Farm

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.

As the CSA grew, Jill knew it was time to decide which of her two occupations she should stick with. It was becoming clear that there was no time to work as a Marketing Director, so she left her job, and pursued her passion of working full-time on the farm. She also began doing presentations for local schools, businesses and groups to educate them on the CSA philosophy and the importance of eating local. Although she used her farm as an example of how people can eat local, she expressed the importance of doing some research and choosing the right CSA for their family or deciding if visiting a farmer’s market or learning to grow their own garden might be better alternatives. She also likes to discuss what it means to be sustainable and to explain the difference between a farm chicken and a factory chicken.

“Although I do not have a soil science degree, I can say that my passion for doing what is best and doing what I enjoy to do motivates me to do anything I can to improve our farm and its products. I continually strive to learn all I can about ways to improve the quality of the 63 vegetables and fruits we currently grow for our members. I take great pride in our farm and products and do all I can to provide the most nutritious products,” said Jill.

While 63 varieties may seem like an overwhelming amount, Jill feels they are necessary to provide something new and exciting all the time. “It also helps to have 63 varieties of veggies because if Mother Nature decides to give us bad weather we always can provide a share,” she said.  

Okra is probably the most unusual found at RR Farm, and they are going to try artichokes this year. “Members love tomatoes, peppers, beans so we offer a couple different varieties of each and have a ‘Chinese’ week when we offer Bok Choy, Nappa Cabbage, and Asian greens,” she said.  Jill has also discovered that “Members love KALE! During the season we all exchange recipes. We personalize shares so if a member says they don't like corn, they don't get corn. I provide a survey when they sign up and ask what they like and what they don't like,” she said.

Jill has four children ages 18 – 27 who were raised in the garden and were eating brussel sprouts at two years of age! They are all still involved in the farm in some way.

RR Farm, offers free-range eggs and an online organic bulk food buying club in Neosho, Wisconsin in addition to their vegetable shares.

Jill decided to add the online organic bulk food because she wanted people to find out how easy and affordable it is to eat organically. “Eating trends are changing and I want to inform members about GMO, Gluten, Fair Trade, Soy, Corn, sugar and provide an option that is easy to participate in. The organic bulk food is delivered with their CSA, so it makes it easy for working moms and dads. Our organic bulk food buying club is open to members and nonmembers. It is just a great way to educate people on healthy alternatives. Everyone can afford to eat organic, they just have to know how to buy it!” said Jill.

 This blog post was written by Theresa Lins. Theresa is a Milwaukee-based writer and Urban Ecology Center “groupie”.  She has been active in promoting the Center and its programs for over 14 years.  Other than eating farm-fresh food, her favorite thing is to write about it and the people who produce it.

2013 LFOH logoYou can meet these farmers and many others at the Local Farmer Open House on March 9th at our Riverside Park branch. Meet and sign up with farmers, learn how you can join a CSA farm (purchase a share of the harvest) and get a box of fresh produce each week during the season. Join us for this free event!

Jamie Ferschinger

Jamie Ferschinger

With a Bachelor's degree in Biology and Communications and a Master's degree in Conservation Biology, Jamie brings a wealth of experiences and deep passion to her work at the Urban Ecology Center. As Branch Manager of the Riverside Park Branch, she helps to ensure that things are running smoothly and everybody is happy! Outside of work, Jamie enjoys running when the sun is coming up, spending time outside, cooking, listening to music and traveling to new places.


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