2015 Local Farmer Open Houses

MKEFarmerOpenHouseAre you looking to join the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement in 2015? Well, you’re in luck. On March 7 and March 8, 2015, there are two free farmer open houses in Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., where the public can get up close and personal with Wisconsin farmers and sign up for CSA subscriptions.

The Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, is hosting the 13th Annual Local Farmer Open House on Saturday, March 7, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Over 15 CSA farms will be on hand, including Backyard Bounty, Full Harvest Farm, HighCross Farm, JenEhr Family Farm, LotFotL Community Farm, Old Plank Farm, Pinehold Gardens, Rare Earth Farm, Stems Cut Flowers, Three Sisters Community Farm, Tipi Produce, Turtle Creek Gardens, Wellspring, Wild Ridge Farm, Willoway Farm, and Young Farmers CSA.

Besides getting to know the farmers, their growing practices, and what they have for sale, the event also consists of two workshops throughout the day. Jamie Ferschinger, the Urban Ecology Center’s Riverside Park branch manager, will give an “Introduction to CSAs” (11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.), and Annie Wegner LeFort of the Mindful Palate, cooking instructor and master food preserver, will share ideas on “Eating Healthy All Year.” (12 p.m. and 12:45 p.m.) Learn how to use the contents of a weekly CSA box to prepare quick, healthy meals, shopping farmers markets, preserving, and more.

FairshareCoalitionOpenHouseIf you live in the Madison area, the FairShare CSA Coalition’s 23rd annual CSA Open House is being held on Sunday, March 8 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Monona Terrace.

This year 36 CSA farmers who deliver to the Madison area and beyond will be on hand. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet with CSA growers and attend two workshops, including “Making the Most of Your CSA Share, presented by Pat Mulvey of Local Thyme CSA Menu Planning Service (1 p.m. and 3 p.m.), and “What’s in the Box? CSA for Newbies,” (2-2:30 p.m.) a panel discussion where the public can ask questions of experienced CSA members and farmers.

For more information on these events, visit urbanecologycenter.org and csacoalition.org.

FAQs for CSA Farmers

  • Where (and when) are your pick-up sites?
  • What is the length of your season/number of deliveries?
  • Describe the size, contents and cost of your share(s).
  • What do you offer besides vegetables? Can I make any choices about what’s in the box? Can I order extras?
  • Do you offer worker shares? Payment plans? Have an assistance fund? Do you take the Quest card? Electronic payment?
  • What are your growing and production practices? (Certified organic? Sustainably grown?)
  • Can I visit your farm? Do you have open houses? U-pick days? Do you have a newsletter?

2013 Local Farmer Open House in Milwaukee

On Saturday, March 9, 2013, the Urban Ecology Center-Riverside Park in Milwaukee hosted the 11th Annual Local Farmer Open House. The public was able to get up close and personal with 17 local Wisconsin farmers, learn where their food comes from, take in a few free workshops, and sign up for a CSA.

The following is a list of 17 farms that were on hand:

Backyard Bounty

Full Harvest Farm

HighCross Farm

JenEhr Family Farm

LotFotL Community Farm

Old Plank Farm

Pinehold Gardens

Rare Earth Farm

Rubicon River Farm

Stems Cut Flowers

Stoney Meadow Farm

Three Sisters Community Farm

Tipi Produce

Turtle Creek Gardens

Wellspring

Willoway Farm

Young Farmers CSA

CSA 101: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

CSA 101: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

While the majority of Wisconsin residents were throwing back green beer and enjoying St. Patrick’s Day festivities, the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee hosted the 10th annual Local Farmer Open House on March 17.

Residents were able to interact with dozens of local farmers on hand promoting their farms and CSA programs. A CSA, otherwise known as community supported agriculture, has become a popular way for the community to purchase local, seasonal food directly from an area farmer.

Kimberly and I attended the event with hopes of signing up for our very first CSA. Boy were we surprised at the number of great local farmers and the services they provide.

Before we made our decision on what farm we would choose, we were able to sit in on three educational workshops. The first was on how to choose a CSA and what to expect, presented by Jamie Ferschinger, community program coordinator with the Urban Ecology Center. Next, Chef Annie Wegner LeFort led a discussion on how to get the most from a CSA purchase with some helpful tips on planning menus, cooking and preserving fruits and vegetables. Lastly, Lynn Markham from the UW System, led a discussion on how pesticides and food choice affect our health and water quality.

Armed with some great information, Kimberly and I navigated our way through the three levels of farmers’ booths. What better way to know where our food comes from than the farm owners themselves. Each gave us a run-down on their farm’s philosophy, how they care for their land, and how they operate their CSA.

Common questions we learned one should ask when searching for the CSA that is right for them are:

  • What do you sell?
  • What are your growing and production practices?
  • How do I order and buy from you?
  • Where and when are your pick-up sites?
  • What is the length of the season?
  • Can you describe the cost and size of your shares?

It is important to pick a farm that has an ideal drop-off location and time that fits into your schedule. While some farms do offer home delivery, most have drop-off sites where participants can pick up their box on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Pick a CSA that fits the style of food you cook with or eat. Otherwise, you might have a box full of produce that goes to waste. Growing season and the length of the CSA is also important to consider. With pesticide use being a big decider for us, we sought answers on how the farmers fertilize their crops. Some do in fact spray, but have adopted techniques allowed by certified organic farming practices.While purchasing produce through a CSA can be a financial commitment that some may find difficult to make, many farms offer payment plans split throughout the growing season and accept food stamps and worker shares. Along with your box of produce, many farms provide newsletters that include recipes and tips on how to cook from what’s in your box, as well as the farm’s weekly happenings.

An up close and personal introduction with the farmers that are growing your food is an experience in which everyone should partake. Know your farmer, know your food.