Grampa Glenn’s Organic Strawberries
1. How and when did you get involved in farming? After military service, college, and six years working for the Defense Mapping Agency in St. Louis, Glenn knew being inside all day was not for him. We purchased a run-down dairy farm near Glenn’s home town, worked up to 400 acres of crop land and as many as 80 milking cows. After twenty-five years, we sold the cows (that was NOT a sad day!) and Glenn worked as a civilian employee at Fort McCoy for seven years, retiring in 2006. In 1998 Glenn decided that it was time to cease using chemicals on our cropland, and we qualified for certified organic status a couple years later. We sold a lot of our cropland but retained about 60 acres for soybeans, corn—this year it’s winter wheat—and 2.5 acres for strawberries.
2. What are some of your biggest challenges and how do you approach them? Our biggest challenge as certified organic farmers: weeds! We don’t use sprays/pesticides, so it takes old-fashioned elbow grease to get those guys out of the ground! Glenn spends hours on his hands and knees pulling weeds from the strawberries. There is proof we are organic when you look down some of the rows! We’ve also had problems with the tarnished plant beetle/lygus bug. That nasty little guy burrows into the blossoms and causes stunted berries, not appealing to look at or eat! This year Glenn has put white stakes throughout the rows and spread Tanglefoot on them. The white color attracts the bug, and they get stuck to the stake!
3. What unique offerings or specialties do you bring to the area? We are one of the few growers in Wisconsin that offer certified organic strawberries. Glenn’s family grew strawberries when he was a boy, and he was frustrated that berries we purchased didn’t have the same flavor. Though we can’t say that certified organic strawberries taste better than conventional ones, our repeat customers all talk positively about the delicious flavor of Grandpa Glenn’s berries. We are open for U-Pick customers dawn to dusk during the season and especially enjoy having families come. There is lots of room for the kids to run. We have quart boxes or you may bring your own containers.
4. Are you a CSA (can people become members of the farm), and where can people buy your products? We are not a CSA. Grandpa Glenn’s berries can be purchased at Just Local Foods in Eau Claire anytime and in the Indianhead parking lot (by Rogan’s Shoes) weekdays and Saturday 11 to 2.
5. Can people visit your farm? If so, when? YES! We welcome people to come and pick their own berries. You may have to fight with some weeds (Grandpa Glenn is working hard to eliminate them and can prove it by the calluses on his knees!). We enjoy seeing our repeat customers and hearing their stories about eating/freezing/canning berries. Probably our favorite story is about the little boy who loved his grandma’s strawberry jam but developed a reaction to chemicals and couldn’t eat conventional berries. His grandpa “discovered” our berries and purchased some so that his grandson could once again enjoy his grandma’s jam. Many of our customers say their kids hadn’t eaten fresh strawberries because they didn’t want them ingesting the chemicals. We are proud of our berries and suggest you come and sample some before you buy. We encourage pickers to sample as they pick. Our berries are “fertilized” with God’s rain and sunshine. Taste and see that The LORD is good.
1. How and when did you get involved in farming? I grew up gardening with my family, which sparked my interest in plants and led me, eventually, to a PhD in plant ecology. I got involved in farming in 2003 when my husband and I purchased the farm. In fact the day we came to look at the farm and were deciding whether to buy or not, a gorgeous sunset set in the west and to the east a double rainbow framed the farm! That was the sign we needed to move forward. Originally we planned to farm it out, however, one thing led to another and that winter we stepped up and advertised the CSA. The following spring we were growing and supplying beautiful organic produce to twenty members. Now in our tenth year, we have over fifty families that participate. While I love most parts of the farm, my favorite part of the CSA is that our members come to help on the farm. Our mission is to connect people to the land and each other. Working together to raise the crops cultivates not just great food but great friends. Also because we are just a CSA farm all our produce goes to our members and nothing is wasted!
2. What are some of your biggest challenges & how do you approach them? Now that we are in our tenth year we are past the “beginner’s challenges” that we faced in the early years. Our biggest challenge now is the uncertainty of what each year will bring. Each year brings a new test. Last year it was cutworms, this year it’s flea beetles. Last year we had an early spring, and this year … well, it was a slow start. Acceptance of what is, is how we approach this. There’s always going to be more than you can do, so you just do your best each day. Having members who participate and understand is key. Together we share the bounty and together we share the dearth.
3. What unique offerings or specialties do you bring to the area? One thing that makes Sunbow Farm unique is our commitment to member support. We offer a family-friendly, educational atmosphere where families can learn about and participate in organic food production. Another unique aspect to Sunbow is the herbal component which is in its third year. We grow over fifty different medicinal herbs: 25 percent wild-crafted, 75 percent cultivated, all certified organic. We produce over fifty different medicinal herbal products that are made on site in our state-licensed commercial kitchen and sell these directly to people through our farm memberships and at six stores throughout Wisconsin. We also offer a monthly seminar series and herbal plant walks. In addition to all of the plants, we raise 100 percent grass-fed lamb. I consider myself a plant person, but once I began farming, I very quickly realized it is difficult to maintain soil fertility without animals and their composted manure. Having animals adds a richness to the experience … literally and figuratively!
4. Can people visit your farm? If so, when? Yes! Folks are always welcome to come and visit the farm. We are open to the public but please phone first: 715-379-7284. Please visit our website for more information: www.sunbowfarm.com.
Breezy Knoll Farm
1. How and when did you get involved in farming? We purchased our farm in 2009. Bill had dreamed of being a farmer as a child but until now had not had an opportunity to make his dream come true. While pondering what we could grow, Judy attended the Beginning Market Gardening class at UW-Madison, and community supported agriculture was right in line with her and Bill’s social/political leanings. Both Bill and Judy have years of gardening experience, and Bill studied horticulture in college. It is sad to see so many family farms disappearing from Wisconsin and equally tragic is seeing our neighbors near and far eating food grown with herbicides, pesticides, and other chemicals being trucked to supermarkets from thousands of miles away. Community supported agriculture addresses these issues as well as gives people a sense of stewardship over the land. Our CSA members are members not customers.
2. What are some of your biggest challenges and how do you approach them? Our biggest challenge has been finding help. We believe anyone we hire should be paid a living wage, but Bill and I have limited resources. We have seen the demand for our naturally grown produce triple in the past year and we would love to expand to meet the current as well as future predicted growth. More and more people are becoming conscious of what they eat and how it is produced and want to support local agriculture.
3. What unique offerings or specialties do you bring to the area? We are a community-supported agriculture farm. People purchase shares of the harvest in the spring, providing us with needed funds to plant. As CSA members, they are buying their food locally and helping to create a sustainable food supply here in the Chippewa Valley region. Members understand that there are inherent risks in farming that may affect the availability of products. They learn to eat seasonally and to try different vegetables. We grow our produce naturally with no herbicides or pesticides and use sustainable farming methods. Our produce is what I call “handcrafted with love.” CSA members receive a ¾ bushel box of just picked, clean vegetables and herbs every week at a pick-up site convenient to them. Included with each box is a newsletter with recipes and farm news.
4. Are you a CSA (can people become members of the farm), and where can people buy your products? Go to our website: www.breezyknollfarmllc.com.
5. Can people visit your farm? If so, when? Certainly! Sunday afternoons work best for us. Please call ahead so I can put our four dogs in the house.
1. How and when did you get involved in farming? We have both gardened all our lives. We bought the farm in 2000 and began Sylvan Hills in 2003 with our first farm market in Eau Claire. We have continued since then with the CSA and also a few grocery sales in addition to 2 farm markets in the twin cities and new this year we will be at Menomonies Farmers Market.
2. What are some of your biggest challenges & how do you approach them? Our biggest challenge is having enough help at the critical time when things are ready to go. For example, garlic harvest requires many people to help clean the garlic. On our own, this can take a couple of weeks with no time for anything else.
3. What unique offerings or specialties do you bring to the area? Unique offerings that are vine ripened, fresh picked, and delivered twenty-four hours within picking the produce. We grow over ninety varieties, many of them heirloom and traditional. We also have watermelons and strawberries. Work shares are available. We contribute produce regularly to local food shelves.
4. Are you a CSA (can people become members of the farm), and where can people buy your products? People may become members of Sylvan Hills CSA. We limit it to fifty members. Our carrots, garlic, and other miscellaneous produce is delivered to three coops: Menomonie Market Coop and both Mississippi Markets in St. Paul.
5. Can people visit your farm? If so, when? Yes, members may visit the farm for two events. These include the Garlic Harvests to help clean the garlic, which occur the following Sunday after the 4th of July and two weeks later. The Harvest Bounty Feast is a gathering of CSA members for dinner on the farm, where we enjoy ratatouille and salads with grilled vegetarian and additional pork brats and beef burgers locally raised. Other customers may arrange for a visit at least a month in advance by contacting us via our website at www.sylvanhillsfarm.com. We plan to have open house in May beginning next year (2014).
Do you support local agriculture (market farms and/or CSA)? We’d love to hear from you and ask you a few questions. Email email@example.com