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

2013 Wisconsin CSA Open Houses

Local Farmer Open House
If you’re looking to join a CSA this year, you’re in luck. On March 9 and March 10, there are two free open houses in Milwaukee and Madison where you can get up close and personal with local Wisconsin farmers.

The Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, is hosting the 11th Annual Local Farmer Open House on Saturday, March 9, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Over 15 farms will be on hand, including Backyard Bounty, Full Harvest Farm, HighCross Farm, JenEhr Family Farm, LotFotL Community Farm, Noel Farms, Old Plank Farm, Pinehold Gardens, Rare Earth Farm, Rhine Center Vegetable Club, Rubicon River Farm, Stems Cut Flowers, Stoney Meadow Farm, Three Sisters Community Farm, Tipi Produce, Turtle Creek Gardens, Wellspring, and Willoway Farm.

FairShare CSA Coalition Open HouseBesides getting to know the farmers, the event also consists of three workshops throughout the day. Jamie Ferschinger, the Urban Ecology Center’s Riverside Park branch manager, will explain how Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) works; Annie Wegner LeFort, chef and master food preserver, will share ideas for more efficiently using the contents of a weekly CSA box to prepare quick, healthy meals; and Warren Porter, of UW-Madison, will share what research shows about how and why to avoid pesticides in your food.

If you live in the Madison area, FairShare CSA Coalition’s 21st annual CSA Open House is being held on Sunday, March 10 from 1 to 4 p.m. at Monona Terrace.

This year FairShare doubled the space of its event to create a more relaxing atmosphere. Meet with CSA growers serving the Madison area and attend several free workshops, including “CSA 101: Nuts & Bolts of Community Supported Agriculture” by Erika Janik, CSA Member & Dennis Fiser, CSA Farmer from Regenerative Roots; and “CSA 201: Making the Most of your Seasonal CSA Produce” by Laura Gilliam of Local Thyme, a CSA Menu Planning Service.

For more information on these events, visit http://urbanecologycenter.org and www.csacoalition.org

Wellspring: Growing the Next Generation of Farmers

wellspring

At the end of the long gravel road at 4382 Hickory Rd., in West Bend, Wis., is a 36-acre utopia that is home to wildflowers, winding nature trails, ponds, a registered bird habitat, and 100 varieties of organic vegetables. A place like this is often only dreamt about. For Mary Ann Ihm, it’s a dream that became a reality and a place she has rightly named Wellspring – a certified-organic produce farm and a not-for-profit education and retreat center.

wellspringgravelroadFounded on March 1, 1982 by Ihm, a former educator, she wanted to create a learning environment that would “help people live in harmony with themselves and the earth.” She started out small, holding workshops and working out of a community garden in Milwaukee. But Ihm, who grew up on a farm, had a bigger vision for Wellspring. She wanted land where she could create a farm and a retreat center. Her dream would come true fives years later in 1987, but it involved a lot of heartbreak and some divine intervention.

Mary Ann’s number one supporter and husband, Wayne, passed away from cancer. Just a week after Wayne’s funeral, Mary Ann was given an ad for a property in West Bend. The description called to her, and upon visiting the land, she fell in love. She knew it was the perfect fit for what she wanted to accomplish with Wellspring. One problem: she didn’t have the money to pay for it. She thought her dreams were dashed, that is, until a surprise came in the mail later that same week. Unbeknownst to Mary Ann, Wayne had a life insurance policy and she received a check for the exact amount of the property’s down payment. Wellspring purchased the property and moved Wellspring to West Bend in the spring of 1988, forming what is the longest running CSA in Wisconsin. It’s here where she and all the faithful employees work hard at educating and informing the public about wellness and healthy food choices.

Introduction to Farming: 101

Wellspring is located on 36 acres of property, but only grows on six. So, to feed the farm’s 110-member CSA and restaurant customers, they really have to get creative and make great use of the available growing space.

permaculture

Farm manager Alissa Moore incorporated permaculture into the design of the field where vegetables are planted in a curve pattern that mimics the natural flow of the land.

As a result, the farm incorporated permaculture into the design of the field where vegetables are planted in a curve pattern that mimics the natural flow of the land.  Farm manager Alissa Moore says this method helps to mitigate erosion during heavy rains in what is a fairly steep slope.

The farm also takes advantage of growing in multiple hoop houses. This helps the farm get an early start on seedlings in the spring and extends the growing season beyond the typical fall harvest time.

Moore oversees the farm’s 40 different types of crops and 100 different varieties. At the same time, she also is mentoring the farm’s interns. In fact, she estimates that 90 percent of her job is devoted to taking the interns under her wing.

“We all work together side by side each day,” she says. “Most of them have never farmed before, so they are learning what it means to be involved in day-to-day activities at an organic farm.”

tomatoesInterns live and work on the farm from March until October. Each year a new batch of interns come in, while some have the opportunity to stay for two growing seasons. Activities on the farm vary from month to month. In April and May, Moore is teaching the interns how to seed and plant. In May and June, planting, weeding, and harvesting. In July and August the planting comes to an end but weeding continues and most of their time is spent on proper harvesting techniques. In September, harvesting is still going strong and weeding begins for the fall crops. Infrastructure for the different crops is also taken down at this time. In October they continue to harvest the hardiest crops, and prepare the farm for the winter.

Educational Workshops

Wellspring’s mission is to not only grow organic food but to also help teach the public the importance of growing, eating, and living sustainably. Francie Szostak, the educational coordinator at Wellspring, says many educational opportunities are available throughout the year.

http://farmtotablewisconsin.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/homegardeningdemonstration1.jpgWellspring offers a host of home gardening courses that teach novices how to plan a home garden. Everything from caring for the soil, preparing garden beds for transplanting, the basics on companion planting, maintenance (weeding, mulching, natural pest control), harvesting, and food preservation techniques.

“We teach people things like with a carrot, how do you know when to pull it out of the ground. Or broccoli, do you just rip it off or remove it from the stem,” says Szostak.

Wellspring also offers seasonal cooking classes where each month a different vegetable that is ready to be harvested is selected and featured from the garden. Each class is led by Chef K.C. Thorson who develops and demonstrates four healthy recipes. In 2012 classes focused on salad turnip and radishes, chicory bitter greens/Asian greens, culinary herbs, beets, root veggies, brussel sprouts, and Thanksgiving dishes.

Visitors to Wellspring can get hands-on in the vermiculture worm composting bin.

Visitors to Wellspring can get hands-on in the vermiculture worm composting bin

Workshops are also offered regularly throughout the year. In 2012 the farm hosted workshops on wild edibles, foraging for mushrooms, native pollinators, gluten-free cooking, and a cheesemaking workshop.

Groups that visit the farm for a workshop also can take advantage of Wellspring’s bed and breakfast, which is among the top Travel Green Wisconsin Certified Businesses.

Teaching Youth/Farm to School

The farm is also very big on educating youth. As a result, the farm encourages K-12 schools and community groups (adult groups, too) to schedule a field trip to experience life on an organic farm. Szostak says that children experience farm life and connect with how food is grown through hands-on lessons and activities, and each visit is tailored to students’ ages, learning levels and classroom goals.

Farm field trips typically last two hours and include a farm tour, gardening activity, a picnic lunch, and a snack that is harvested from the gardens. Szostak says kids that visit the farm more often than not are not afraid of vegetables like most people want to believe.

agricorpsgarden

The Agricorp garden at Wellspring.

“They come out here and when they’re in the dirt, using their hands, growing it themselves, they are so excited to taste it,” she says. “Even little kids that are 2 and 3 that came out here, I had some beets to try and they said ‘no,’ but then they popped one in their mouth and their faces just lit up. Kids really aren’t afraid of vegetables.”

Wellspring also has a program on the farm called Agricorps that teaches youth ages 12-17 best business practices using sustainable agriculture. In this program, youth participate in six weekday instruction sessions and two weekend sessions during the summer months, says Szostak.

Francie Szostak is the education coordinator at Wellspring in West Bend, Wis.

“They come out, pick a plant that they tend to all season long, and they learn the things that go into growing organically, like pest control, weeding, as well as the business marketing side of farming,” she says. “So they have to plan their garden, plan out the costs, learn about marketing skills, decide where they’re going to sell their product and then after all that they go to the Wauwatosa Farmers’ Market and they get to sell the produce that they’ve grown all season.”

In 2012 the youth planted eggplant, squash, tomatoes and peppers. The proceeds they received from their sales at the Wauwatosa Farmers’ Market were then donated to the charity of their choice.

In 2013 Szostak’s hope is to expand the farm’s reach and incorporate some youth from the inner city and teach them the self reliant skills of growing their own food and marketing skills.

Kale in the field at Wellspring.“These business marketing techniques can be applied to any ventures they go into their life,” she says.

Besides teaching classes on the farm, Wellspring also visits select schools with a “Farm to School” program. In 2012 Wellspring began partnering with Grafton and Kewaskum schools where they started sampling fresh organic produce in the lunchroom.

“They get to each sample one and if they like the dish that the chef created using that produce, they all get a vote, and then it will be on the lunch line the next week,” says Szostak. “It’s really involving them instead of just shoving some veggies at them and saying ‘eat this.’”

Where to Buy

Wellspring offers a CSA for 20 months that begins in the first week of June through the third week of October. The farm offers three different share sizes: Full, half, and community. The full share is delivered weekly while the half share is every other week.

heirloomtomatoesMembers who want to receive a discounted price on a full share and get their hands dirty at the same time, can choose to do a community share and commit to work two four-hour shifts on the farm during the season.

New in 2012 is the addition of a winter share that will be three larger shares that are distributed two weeks apart in November in December.

Wellspring holds farm festivals for its shareholders and families throughout the season, including: an Earth Day Celebration, Herb Sale, the Taste of Wellspring, and Agri-Culture Fest.

Wellspring sets up shop every Saturday during the growing season at the Wauwatosa Farmers’ Market and every other Saturday at the Fox Point Farmers’ Market. A popular item among the market-goers is the farm’s lettuce mix. Wellspring’s produce is also found regularly on the menus of Milwaukee restaurants La Merenda and Allium.

WellspringWellspringSign
4382 Hickory Rd.
West Bend, WI 53090
Website: http://www.wellspringinc.org/
Phone: (262) 675-6755
Email: wellspringcsa@gmail.com
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As a non-profit, Wellspring relies on donations. If you are interested in donating to Wellspring, visit http://www.wellspringinc.org/Main/Donate