Farm Blog

Thank you again for braving the blizzard to celebrate, connect with great food, and 'planting an orchard'! Just imagine all those future cherry trees (don't forget to squat:-).
I am so uplifted from all the good vibes, intentions, laughter and seeds shared and planted.

We were able to raise $850.00 in funds! This will go a long way, thank you! Additionally, with all the seeds donated today and from what I've gleaned from others, The women growers in the Sine-Saloum region will be able to plant out a couple hundred row feet/farm. In the past we've planted shared 'demonstration beds' ie since many of the farmers share space/land to grow on we've constructed seeds beds to trial different varieties, plant insectory herbs and flowers and share techniques. From there seeds are harvested and shared forward amongst the individual farmers. So in essence your generosity helped plant teaching/learning/eating/

sharing beds of veggie, herb, and flower goodness!

I will honor my commitment and extend the immense gratitude, generosity that was shared during the workshop with the women farmers in the following ways:

Work with NCBA CLUSA Farmer to Farmer Program to transfer funds and mail seeds.
I'll also email and share highlights, photos forward later this week in celebration of our workshop success.

I am tentatively set to travel there Nov/Dec. or January in 2016.

I also finally remembered the name of third grower group, JUBO (means widespread). If you're interested in learning more about how they got started, here's a link to an interview I did as part of my last Farmer to Farmer adventure in Senegal.

I Will keep you in the loop as the project evolves and thanks again for sharing your generous spirit!

For the chocolate lovers:
Becky Otte, who made the amazing truffles, has more of her chocolate goodness to share and is selling some of her creations just in time for Valentines. if you're interested send her an email:

Also Here is a link to Roots Chocolate website.

For the Fruit Lovers:

I've enclosed a handout of some of the different fruits we grow at our farm as well as a flyer highlighting this season's events at the farm! We'd love to have you venture out and tour the orchard, come visit us (though not nearly as cool as the orchard poses we did during the workshop).

Thank you again for helping me transition from being a butterfly weed seed (ie wind pollinated, not knowing where or how my intentions, projects might stick) to more of an oak or cashew seeds - wherein I can deepen my awareness, provide support in the same place(s) in Senegal for the growers and in my backyard in Wisconsin:-). Here's to planting the seeds of the as yet to be imagined on and off the yoga mat! Wishing you all much abundance.

Happy Mid-winter!

Yours in hardy kiwi,

PS If you are into exploring the planting side as well as enjoying more local fruit creations, we'll be hosting a Local Fruit Tasting May 16, details on our website.


Agency and the Allurement of 'Farmerhood'

While ice dams plague roofs, snow drifts cloak balsam roots, and the soil steeps in frozen stillness, I turn inward. Winter is not just a workout with the shovel, but also an exercise in exercising choice—if only to stir movement and heave the frosts of doubt that last season—the wettest, darkest on record for this farmers 12 year tenure stewarding Hilltop—threatened to erode the seedbed of my spirit.

Brushing snow from the solar panels, once again. Winter came late to the farm, but with full snow-filled splendor. Photo by Rob McClure

Brushing snow from the solar panels, once again. Winter came late to the farm, but with full snow-filled splendor. Photo by Rob McClure

Bone-weary, I fall back to the days spent pumping butternut barbels to meet the ossuary demands for the mid-winter dinner. Why do I persist? There is this lingering romantic myth in our culture that is perpetuated about farming. It goes something like this: Summer days are spent basking with butterflies and blooms, gallantly hoeing away weeds and cares, plucking peppers, and careening with carrots, so that come winter, farmers in the world's temperate regions, kick back, relax, sleep and feast the days away in a quiet merriment as there is 'nothing' to do. This world might exist, if only in fits and spurts, but do we really have control around our days, and who would really choose working 90 plus hrs a week in pursuit of plums? Life circumstances and societal demands of business plans, taxes, market analysis, crop plans, seed orders, grower conferences, 'off farm work to feed the farming habits and pay the interest on your operating loan', the unsatiable hunger of instragram and facebook feeding, and our longing to (re)connect with nature (ironically through social media datapoints and virtual realities) make it hard to take a step toward Enough.

What's a farmer to do? I am body-weary and mentally stuck as the moon and deer look on from my window. I turn to Plato, “The person's own better determining that person's choices.”

What choice as farmers do we have? Or rather, what is the new Nature that wants to be born in my 'farmer' spirit and that of the land, and how does one 'nurture' its agency?

Summer tour of our young orchard, bulk of which was planted in 2012. Photo by Rob McClure

Summer tour of our young orchard, bulk of which was planted in 2012. Photo by Rob McClure

Farming is a conscious choice I made, since moving back to Wisconsin in 2006, and one I am continuously asked to make. There's a certain momentum that is seeded in start-up and carries it's own sub-set of intent and hope-fueled breathlessness. This starts with soil and seeds, rootstocks, grafts, and plant plugs, an attitude of can-do self-actualization, but also a certain illusion of control, even if it comes with social support. For example, our one-acre orchard demanded a set of interventions and intentions during establishment phase and we 'chose' to pursue additional fruit possibilities through research, food forests, and celebration. Now we are tasked with 'how to best intervene' as the orchard takes shape and our bodies age. We see the folly of some of our decisions and recognize the way forward demands a different sort of presence with nature. Of the myriad and wonderful beginning farmer and mentorship programs out there, one thing I believe is missing from the instruction is sequencing and forethought. They don't teach you to design and consider your farm with sequencing and succession in mind—how to survive those 'middle age' years and groan zones in the fields, in your bodies and your bank account. If agency is to be actualized, balance to be achieved, groan zones to be massaged, it's through the recognition that stasis exists in the spaces where cooperation and conflict co-exist. You evolve to rest in trust in your agency and try to find grace when the Japanese beetles eat all the seaberry, the field mice gnosh at your prized peppers and the winds render your dahlias horizontal.

This winter, I have felt stuck and honestly considered stepping away from farming. There have been a lot of tears, self-doubt and unraveling that took place. Something peculiar also took root, just as I told myself all the reasons I have failed as a farmer because I am out of balance with cash flow, I don't have a tractor or a hoop house, I lost my winter teaching job in the winter, I indulge in scarcity thinking, “ I really helping humanity by selfishly thinking that through creating beauty you can save the world.” Soon thereafter, an influx of wedding flower inquiries flooded in, and the healing flame of enchantment was once again lit.

At first I just surrendered to what is. Here we go again, seeds are to be started, agreements are to be made, but that alone implies a certain passivity. As philosopher Amelie Rorty eloquently relays in her essay on Personhood (which I believe extends into 'Farmerhood'), “...the search for that core person is not a matter of curiosity; it is a search for the principles by which choices are to be made.

Choices of the soul or operations of the mind? What do I have control around and what are life circumstances that I just have to contend with right now? Or maybe a more alluring question to ponder is, “Where do my gifts as a farmer and the needs of the world meet right now in time?”

At ease among flowers. Photo by Rob McClure

At ease among flowers. Photo by Rob McClure

There is a part of me that longs to fully utilize my training

and skills as a soil scientist, educator and facilitator to travel the world and create spaces for people to engage in intergenerational dialogue about how to cultivate a love for the Earth for all beings seen and unseen, be a whole human, find home wherever you are at. Maybe that time will bear fruit. I think the world is asking me to share my gifts as a farmer and a farmer florist. At least that is the locus of agency and lesson of power from which I am operating from—to make peace in my mind, let go of negative thought patterns, and feel out the next steps in my body as I imagine the time where barefeet can move in the mud once again.

The gravitational pull of fruit and flowers remains a mystery to me. Yet I can't ignore the area of understanding that emerges in between my hands where bouquets are born and pears picked just at the right ripeness. I tell my flower clients and CSA members that I do my best work when you give me a general sense of style and preference, let me know if there is a color or flower you just don't want to have at your event or on your table, and then trust in my ability to create floral feasts and magic with what is in season. As winter turns toward spring, I will rest in trust that the season's momentum is underway. I will try and embody the perennial mojo of keeping a strong underground root system, retain flexible shoots and bloom where planted to make the world beautiful and edible for you.

As your farmers we trust you find value in this and chose that which serves life.

Looking forward to creating a food and flower feast for you this season. Photo by Erin Schneider

Looking forward to creating a food and flower feast for you this season. Photo by Erin Schneider