The Farmers Behind the Food: Steve and Kath Vogelmann, High Cross Farm

Written by Jamie Ferschinger
    Thursday, 07 March 2013
The Farmers Behind the Food: Steve and Kath Vogelmann, High Cross Farm

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.

However, a seed had been planted in their hearts with that first garden—and consequently they continued growing veggies every year in their back yard garden. Yet they longed to return to the land. At long last, in 1998, they were able to purchase their farm in southern Fond du Lac County. Their two sons, Kyle and Darryl, then in their mid-teens, thrived in their new home and learned to make hay, operate and repair farm machinery — and learn the value of hard work.

HighCross Farm, nestled in the Campbellsport drumlins, is an ecologically balanced gem. It’s more nature preserve than farm as only 20 of the 80 acres are in crops and pasture. The rest includes hardwood forests, a tamarack swamp, several creeks, and a half mile of pristine river frontage on the headwaters of the Milwaukee River all teeming with wildlife — a wildlife artist’s dream! 

The Vogelmanns are very family-oriented and have welcomed groups for farm and nature tours, including several groups from the Urban Ecology Center.

Steve loves to work in the woods. They heat 100% with wood from deadfalls and they plan to start making maple syrup as an annual event. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Kath has become a gourmet cook and many of their dinner plates are filled with food raised entirely on their farm — something that is deeply satisfying. She oversees the herb and spice gardens from which she harvests the “Herb of the Week” included in their weekly CSA shares. She is having fun with her latest project — organically grown herbal teas, marketed under their “HighCross Farm Gourmet Naturals” label. She also grows the natural sweetener stevia and has created a line of herb and berry-infused vinegars. Kath points out, “The deep rose color which develops lets you know these vinegars are loaded with natural anti-oxidants.”

Steve and Kath consider their CSA members to be “extended family,” and welcome members to help as worker shares, or to just visit the farm to enjoy its beauty. CSA member events usually include a hayride across the river and through the fields and forests, as well as a short workshop on a food-related subject such as “Making your own Sauerkraut” or “How to use your CSA Produce.”

The Vogelmann’s farming philosophy starts from the ground up: healthy “living” soil grows healthy living plants. They understand that soil is not just dirt, it is a complex balance of microorganisms, micronutrients, minerals and organic matter all working in harmony to produce life.

Many of the vegetables on the CSA members’ dinner tables were growing in the garden just hours before. By waiting until the last minute to harvest and implementing careful harvest and post harvest practices, they maintain that “just picked” freshness you can taste.

Steve and Kath have been together for over 40 years, and have always worked well as a team, such as when presenting their PowerPoint program “The Superfoods” to business, church and civic groups.

The ancient family crest from Kath’s Scottish clan pictures an oak tree cut down in its prime with a tender green shoot sprouting from the stump, emblazoned with the motto “Reviresco,” which means “I grow green again.” Kath likes to joke, “We were green before green was cool.”

Adding it all together, the story of the Vogelmanns and HighCross Farm is a love story: love of good food, love of people, and love of God’s good green earth.

 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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