Isn't it true that when one is away from the day in and day out of life that a look from the outside can offer a surprising view? Last week we got away for a vacation and sat next to some farmers from Southern Illinois on an airplane. They asked William the standard question we get all the time, "What do you grow?" This time, when answering the question, he wasn't standing in his driveway or shop where the answer seemed so obvious, but instead, was looking at his operation from the outside and through the eyes of a farmer from a different place. In that reflection William was surprised by what he saw! He realized at that moment just how very diversified his operation really is. In retelling me the conversation later, he commented, "We sure do a lot! I was reminded of why you say we farm the New Old-Fashioned way." Yep. not just corn and soybeans.
Here's what we grow:
First of all, it’s important to know that we are the partnership of two farms. Lake View Organic Farm is our full-farm operation and Sarah’s Driftless Dirt Farm is home to our permaculture gardens, raspberry patch, herb gardens and a few fruit trees (pear, plum and apple). Back in the day, "Dirt Farmers" were those still farming without mechanization. I've got the spade and broadfork on my farm, and William uses the John Deere. Of course, he comes to visit with machinery every now and then!
On the big farm, William grows row crops like corn, soybeans and sunflowers. He typically sells the corn and soybeans to grain buyers, but keeps all of our sunflowers to sell as animal feed (birdseed, chicken feed) and to press for culinary/cooking oil.
He also grows small grains like oats, barley and rye. These crops get sold as animal feed. He has cattle, so he puts up hay and corn silage to feed them through the winter. Hay is a great rotation crop on an organic farm, so he has enough round bales and small squares to sell to other organic folks who feed cattle, horses, goats or sheep. Our organic rye makes wonderful straw for garden mulch. Corn stubble gets baled for bedding.
A couple of years ago we decided to try our hand at growing CBD Hemp, and for that project we acquired a greenhouse. That inspired us to grow a wide variety of hot peppers as well as other vegetables that like the heat and shelter. Like lots of gardeners, we feel ambitious in the Spring and exhausted by the time mid-summer rolls around!
Besides traditional farm and garden crops, we have a large sugar bush and enjoy tapping maple trees and cooking down the sap in March and April. Our woods also provide dead trees for the firewood we need to heat the house, and wood to cut lumber for occasional building projects.
We are a diverse farm operation always on the lookout for unique and delicious goods to fill our pantry and plates, provide food for our animals, and satisfy our creative ambitions. It's exhausting work sometimes, but at the end of the day, it's so satisfying to survey our plates and report the percentage that comes from the farm - 100% is always my goal. Sometimes "Eat Local" for us means what's on the plate came from our 175 acres alone.
If you'd like to Eat Midwest Local, join us Saturdays this winter at 401 Main Street in Plum City for one of our Winter Markets. We'll be at the Farmhouse World Kitchen from 10-4 every Saturday through April 1st except February 25th.
Hope to see you soon.
Sending lots of love from the farms,