RTF: The First Acre goes ‘Back to the Start’

The First Acre Farm was discussed in the most recent blog post, RTF: The First Acre. Here is a look at the farm from Brian Schneider’s view point. The Scientist by Willie Nelson is used in order to reflect and honor the Chipotle commercial, Back to the Start, that was aired this past spring. Chipotle is choosing to be a role model for food chains by supporting sustainable farmers in each of their restaurants. To read more about that commercial and what it is doing for our food system look into a previous post of mine, An Approach Toward Educational Advertising.

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RTF: The First Acre

Sustainability n: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. The word is heard often in today’s society  when discussing the current food movement that brings farmers and food producers together with consumers and restaurants. The societal movement behind food has a focus on living sustainably. But, what does sustainability really mean? The amount of times ‘sustainability’ is used when discussing food in certain circles makes it seem like a well-known adjective, noun, or verb, but not many really understand its cultural connection and deep roots. Perhaps it is worth while to take a moment and really look into what sustainability means, and how it  impacts our food system.

Slow Food – n: food that is prepared with care, using high quality local and seasonal ingredients. Slow Food has grown throughout international communities to uphold the definition above. ‘Slow Food’ incorporates the idea of creating wholesome good meals that stem from pure ingredients that are locally sourced. The people behind a food movement like this enjoy the culture that is deeply associated with Slow Food and work as activists behind such a cause, WOOFing, AmeriCorps, Food Corps, Peace Corps and student organizations alike all follow the same ideas and build on the idea of being sustainable. These organizations, along with Slow Food chapters across the United States are working to develop practices that lead to a healthier and more sustainable world. They all dedicate their work towards agricultural maintenance and preservation of the food system and they each have an educational component as well.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison is one of the first higher education institutions to join the push for better food with their campus Slow Food chapter, Slow Food UW. Here  a group of energetic and passionate students are striving to bring locally sourced food to the 50,000 plus students and professors that roam campus. There are five separate projects, each geared toward different missions, they range from volunteer work with the local Boys and Girls club, to cooking demos in the freshman dorms, to weekly dinners and café lunches.

Along with Slow Food UW, F.H. King Student Farm holds a strong presence on the campus with their community farm on the far end of campus. Their offering, Harvest Handouts provides free produce in the heart of the U.W. Madison campus every Friday afternoon. The students behind F.H. King follow the goals and dreams of agricultural god, Franklin Hiram King himself. This group of students honor F.H. King’s research and theories behind community supported agricultural systems.

These two organizations affords students the opportunity to uphold the deep roots of sustainability while having an irreplaceable experience and making real connections. Two recent graduates from the University of Wisconsin traded their books in for a handful of farming tools and came together to put all their advocacy work to good use. They stopped talking about how our food system should change and got their hands dirty. Brian Schneider and Darin Ripp of Slow Food UW and F.H. King respectively, are the proud owners of The First Acre Farm, a vegetable garden that resides on just about one acre of the Fountain Prairie Farm land.

  

    

The First Acre Farm is a few months into their first growing season and their produce is making its way through Madison and the Wisconsin farmers markets. At the beginning of August, after a few weeks of no rain they were able to offer a variety of kale, swiss chard, an variety of herbs, watermelon and cucumbers, and much more is on the way, their list of produce includes roughly 40 different organic fruits and vegetables.

These two young men want to make an impact on the food system and offer a food product that they believe in and that they would be proud to consume. They are using the educational knowledge and life experiences gained thus far on their organic farm and they farm with environmentally sound and  sustainable practices. The American Meat documentary claims that there is a need for 4 million people to start farming sustainably so we can make a real difference and reverse the damage done on our food system by corporate commodity farmers. This means there is a strong push for young farmers to pick up a hoe and start combing through the dirt. Brian and Darin are helping to reduce the deficit  by opening  The First Acre Farm. They’re incorporating organic, sustainable farming practices on their farm.

Brian and Darin are living sustainably and sharing the fruits of their labor with their friends, family and their growing customer base. They are taking it one step at a time and they’re doing whatever they can to support a vibrant and healthy food system. Sustainability can be daunting for just one person but choosing to live a certain way in your daily life and sharing that experience with others is the first step to sustainable living. Does creating a sustainable community define the true meaning behind being sustainable, not only understanding what it really means to be sustainable but to actually embrace and engage the community in the practice? Here at U.W. Madison students are getting first hand experience with sustainable living and they’re taking the practices out into the world with them.

All hail sustainability.

Amy Verhey

Summer Food Warrior 2012

RTF: Uphoff Farming

Uphoff Farming

This week for Real Time Farms I drafted a sound clip giving an insight on the Uphoff family that has created a long lifestyle that is dedicated to managing people and animals. Their meat is 100% Berkshire certified and while these hogs live a happy life on the farm in open houses they are also providing a high quality product to a variety of local food establishments in Madison, Wisconsin.

For further information check out their Real Time Farm profile or a previous blog post about their meats.

All hail a dedicated farmer.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: A walk in someone else’s hooves.

When walking through the pastures, barns and enclosures Temple Grandin strives to sense what the animals experience. Her autistic nature allowed her to understand the feelings of America’s farm animals. Her years of experience and research have helped farmers all over the country reconstruct their enclosures, pasture landscapes and even the route to which an animal takes as they exit the farm and head for the processing plant. Temple’s work has inspired many farmers to change their thought process from viewing the animal as a commodity but rather how to better treat the animals with respect. The approach Temple shares through lectures and literature, guides farmers to treat animals in a way that keeps them happy, safe and ultimately healthy. These animals are producing a higher quality meat that is raised more humanely with flavor that is greatly appreciated.

Today’s farming is shifting away from the ‘commodity farmer’ and moving towards a more sustainable and wholesome approach to farming. A commodity farmer is helping to feed America and produce high quantities of food. However, many farmers are starting to approach this differently and follow some of Temple Grandin’s suggestions. This allows farmers to consider the animals’ point of view in their day to day work.

      

Golden Bear Farm is located just outside Sheboygan, Wisconsin where their open pastures extend to roughly 200 acres. The slightly rolling meadows are home to about 50 cows, 100 Berkshire pigs and a handful of horses. The animals graze and incorporate each other as they rotate through various parts of these 200 acres. While one area of their land is being repaired and restored to grow grains for another season the animals are helping to graze the neighboring section. The animals manure along with hay and local fish help to create a fresh and wholesome fertilizer rejuvenating the land once again. Within five years Steve and Marie, founders of Golden Bear Farm, have cultivated their land to offer a home for the animals we currently view as food.

   

Steve and Marie first started looking into Temple Grandin’s work when they purchased some horses; hoping to truly understand the beautiful creatures and train them to some day assist with the farm work. The philosophies and psychology behind working with horses and their ability to sense human’s energy soon because how Steve and Marie approached their cows and pigs. The more they thought about this approach the better sense it started to make while today it is deeply ingrained in their approach to farming.

Golden Bear Farm follows the stages of farming all the way to the end – the butcher. They spent many years researching butchers to make sure they were able to offer a wholesome product through and through. Golden Bear Farm works very diligently to make sure the animals are raised 100% grass-fed, organic and with absolutely no antibiotics or hormones. Beck’s Meat Processing in central Wisconsin follows through the organic process by avoiding the use of nitrates and any other impure substances while processing Golden Bear meats.

The Golden Bear Farm’s success lies in an idea that Steve and Marie stumbled upon years ago, grass is not simply grass. They came to the realization that the animals raised should be treated like “you and me”. These two farmers said, “we choose to look at it from the whole picture, soil on up.” Their own philosophies regarding food and the land its grown on, Temple’s inspiring work and the animals themselves have all helped Golden Bear Farm produce a pure and divine product that is appreciated by all who enjoy it.

All hail the spirit of animals.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: A food activist taking action

Standing up for the food America is eating and working to make a change was all a lot of talk until Jessica Weiland decided to take her activism a step farther, by planting some seeds. Rhine Center resident Jessica Weiland and farming partner Sam Hitchcock Tilton spend their days farming about 120 acres in an unincorporated part of Sheboygan County, in eastern Wisconsin. The two owners of Rhine Center Vegetable Club run a CSA farm with roughly 30 different vegetables changing seasonally. The CSA collection sometimes includes their free range chickens, along with the pristine eggs ranging in color and including the pale blue egg, laid by the Ameraucana chickens. Their farm also supports a handful of grass-fed Berkshire hogs that are sold as whole animals for a local pig roasts, or a friends’ wedding ceremony, as well as of course a few kept for themselves.

  

The way of life Jess and Sam live is a community based ‘off the grid’ style that allows them to nourish their bodies with the food they produce everyday. Their farm hands Seth and 14-year-old Nick help create a community and build the wealth of information running their business. Opening only two years ago, their CSA is helping them to succeed in crafting a community around food. An example of this type of community is exhibited by a local using their land to create a home for his bee’s that produce honey  sold locally and also helps to pollinate the farm’s plants. Or a mutual friend helping to weed baby carrots throughout a blistering summer afternoon in return for a basket full of vegetables.

When reviewing the way they farm Jess and Sam do not wish to claim a USDA organic product but instead strive to educate their customers on the organic land that the food is grown on. They view the soil as an important part of farming their produce and want to share that there are no chemicals, pesticides or impure substances used throughout any step of the process.

 

The Rhine Center Vegetable Club is located outside Sheboygan, Wisconsin and only 60 miles from Milwaukee. These cities help distribute their produce that is leftover after the CSA boxes are accounted for. The Goodside Grocery co-op is a deliver point in Sheboygan as well as the east side of Milwaukee and a drop off in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Their efforts are kept local to change the way people view their food and introduce home-grown vegetables along with unique varieties.

These young farmers want to live a life they are proud of and offer a product that they would consume. Their educational background at the University of Minnesota help them understand the business demands of a farm and their own activism efforts with Slow Food USA and WWOOFing encourages them to make a difference.

Cheers to them and all hail a CSA farm.

Amy Verhey

Summer 2012 Food Warrior

RTF: Fox Valley Berkshire

NostranoCooper’s Tavern, Crema Cafe, Liliana’s as well as Graze and L’Etoile are a few of the well-known restaurants that are choosing to source their pork from Fox Valley Berkshire Farm. Bruce Braun along with a crew of about ten others raise a high quality Berkshire hog that is fed a completely vegetarian feed along with a variety of grains grown on the farm. The pigs are also offered fresh milk from six cows that graze freely on Fox Valley’s land keeping them happy and healthy year round.

  

While the land they are on has been a farm for many years the Fox Valley Berkshire productions are only about 5 years old. The community of local food establishments they have obtained in those few years is outstanding and very helpful for business. The Fox Valley crew is able to produce a very high quality while being able to know exactly where each product ends up.

The pigs are raised as a Berkshire breed that offers a redder meat that is of a higher quality than other pork on the market. Bruce and coworker Todd run the farm along with a small team that sources their pigs to Kewaskum Frozen Foods animal processing followed by delivering a majority of the meat themselves.

  

There are about 10 pigs on the land at a time that produce a liter of about 12 piglets. These animals are kept in a cool enclosure with the ability to roam outside as well. As they grow up they are given more room to roam around and graze on the grains grown. Similar to other Berkshire hogs their time on the farm is about 6 months allowing the farmer to source to as many food establishments as they do without mass producing their animals. At Fox Valley Berkshire the pigs nor cows are fed any hormones or antibiotics and the farmers find it very important to offer a variety of grains giving the animals all the natural nutrients and proteins needed to grow strong and healthy with the correct amount of fat content.

      

The community of food establishments that choose to support Fox Valley Berkshire do so because of the high quality product that is offered to them and the transparency that the farm promotes. The entire Fox Valley team works with the animals and the processors while distributing the final cuts of meat themselves so they are able to see their animals throughout the entire process. The team has also taken the time to dine at many of these restaurants to fully understand the product they are selling on the market.

For more information about Fox Valley Berkshire review their bio on the Real Time Farms website with pictures and contact information.

All hail a fresh milk-fed hog.

Amy Verhey

Summer Food Warrior 2012

RTF: Uphoff Family Farms

Bob and his two sons, Chris and Brian, spend their days raising 100% Berkshire bred hogs on land that has held the farming principles since the mid 1800’s. The Uphoff Family Farm was founded 1867 and has been breeding these types of hogs ever since. The family farm is able to follow the animals’ pedigree generations back due to their in-depth documentation that the Uphoffs have maintained.

Bob Uphoff and his family greatly enjoy the time they have spent being farmers but remark on the need to understand that farming is a business. ‘If you don’t treat farming like a business you will go extinct’ said Bob. His way of life has been ingrained in him and his sons as they all grew up on the Uphoff Farm learning how to raise hogs year after year to product a high quality Berkshire. However, as times changed for transpiration, processing, technology and even weather they needed to adapt. Over a hundred years later they are still able to hold their family farming values close to heart.

The 100% Berkshire certification is something outstanding that differs Uphoff’s pork from any other Berkshire farmers. The rules and regulations behind being certified 100% Berkshire does not always have the highest benefits but produces a phenomenal product. The business side of begin a farm is where Bob and his family have come to learn that it is not always possible to locally source their meats. While they truly wish to support the Madison community their meat is actually processed in Iowa after a large Oscar Mayer plant left the Madison area years ago. From time to time their meats make their way to a local Madison distributors where it can be found at downtown restaurants, such as Bakers’ Window and The Fountain. However, the majority of it is processed in Iowa and sold to a Japanese market. They are able to track their animals and take pride in their farming and animal practices but realize the local community is somewhere they would like to see more of their meat.

Bob and his sons are eager to market their meat and tell their story but with the business demands of managing their farm with a small family staff it is not always a top priority. They treat their animals with the best respect and offer them a high quality feed that helps them grow and stay healthy during their growing period. Berkshire hogs are born about 3 pounds and sold on the markets roughly 6 months later weighing around 280 pounds. The turn around is quite fast for this breed of animal but the Uphoff men take the entire process step by step to offer a pristine Berkshire meat.

The farm is located just outside Madison on Meadowview Road with plenty of acres to move the animals at each stage of their growth and offering them the ability to graze freely. The Uphoff men take outstanding care of the land allowing them to be environmentally recognized by the American Farmland Trust organization in 1999 for their preservation of land and farm principles. The area Uphoff Family Farm is located places them just outside the bustling city of Madison and in an area where land is prized and well taken care of by the Uphoffs.

For more information about their sourcing and distribution review their bio on Real Time Farms website.

All hail a family farm.

Amy Verhey

Summer Food Warrior 2012