Springdale Farm

Located just Southwest of Plymouth and alongside the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forrest, Springdale Farm sits peacefully in a valley.  In the fall of 1987, Peter and Bernadette Seely moved to Wisconsin to start their farm with a business model that was new to the midwest: Community Supported Agriculture.  When their farm first opened in 1988, they had 45 members that subscribed to the farm in order to receive fresh produce every week of the growing season based on which crops were available.  “It seemed like a good idea to build a better economy based on good food,” says Peter Seely.

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Raised in a suburb of New York City, Peter didn’t know much about farming but when a movement for organic food started in the 70s and early 80s Peter states, “the role of food and health became pretty obvious to me.”  So he apprenticed at an organic vegetable farm in Maine for a summer, which first made him consider farming full time.  A few years later, Peter taught high school math at a school in Iowa where he first met his soon-to be-wife Bernadette.   The school had a garden that was part of a program to teach kids about farming that Bernadette and Peter managed together.  In 1986, the couple spent a season touring farms, and among them were the first CSAs in the country.  After learning how these farms functioned, the couple thought: “Let’s see if that idea could take route here in Wisconsin.”

That idea took off.  For the first 20 years, they had a waiting list for their CSA, which serves Sheboygan, Ozaukee and Milwaukee counties.  Springdale is now one of about 12 farms in Southeast Wisconsin that follow the Community Supported Agriculture model. The farmers are in the process of creating a group called CSA Farms of Southeast Wisconsin, in which they help each other with advice and outreach about CSAs.

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“So how does Springdale Farm benefit the Milwaukee community?”, I asked Peter Seely.  As a CSA member, Peter explains, people “know they are directly supporting a local farm dedicated to keeping the soil and the environment safe to pass it on to future generations.”   Additionally, people know exactly where their food comes from and can have it delivered the day after it was picked from the field.

Now 29 years later, Peter and Bernadette Seely have 750 CSA members, 13 greenhouses, electric tractors powered by solar panels and a continued mission to provide healthy food and a sustainable future for our environment.  And in case you’re wondering, their favorite thing to cook this time of year is pesto.

Learn more about the farm on their website: www.SpringdaleFarmCSA.org

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Kathy Papineau and MKE Kitchen

2017_05_21_KP_013_1EIt’s hard to capture all of the things that Kathy Papineau does for the community in one blog post.  The best way to describe Kathy Papineau is that she puts her community before herself.  She runs three businesses that all work together: MKE Kitchen, Localicious and Soup in a Jar.  On top of all that, she is a huge advocate for the local food movement in Milwaukee and a role model for composting and eating local.

Kathy first became interested in food at a young age.  She grew up in Manitowoc, WI with 5 siblings, an unhealthy father, and a mother that didn’t have much time to cook.  Kathy’s childhood fueled her motivation to eat healthy and learn to cook by watching cooking shows on TV and reading magazines like Home & Garden and Good Housekeeping.  Years later as a stay-at-home mom, Papineau started her catering company Localicious around 2007.  She started small in her home kitchen, but the business kept growing until 2012, when she opened MKE Kitchen, her commercial kitchen in Riverwest. Soup in a Jar is her food truck you may see around town that she uses to sell her homemade soup and meet new customers. Naturally, Kathy thought of others before herself. “If I was going to build a kitchen for my business, I thought I should build a kitchen big enough so that other people could build their businesses too,” she explained.

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But that’s not all the kitchen does, not even close.  Kathy teaches cooking classes to kids, and the classes incorporate the importance of composting and the benefits of a local market.  “Schools need to find room in their curriculum to cover stuff like that,” she says.  At the same time, the kitchen acts as a meeting place for local food groups such as volunteers from the Urban Ecology Center advocating for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.  Papineau has created a welcoming place for ideas to spread and for the local food community to grow.

Kathy moves fast and doesn’t sit still for very long which means she has a million ideas for the future.  She wants to teach a course about starting your own business to teach people about all the business technicalities they don’t consider at first.  Whether she planned it or not, Kathy has become a guide for the new entrepreneurs that rent from her and she’s willing to share her experience.  One of those new entrepreneurs, Collin Wallace of Chillwaukee, talked about how helpful Kathy had been to his new business.  “She’s very accommodating and gives us the space we need, and puts us in touch with people and news stations,” he said.

With every new idea, Kathy stays true to her core goal: “I want people to eat healthier. I want them to understand the relationship between their food, their health and the environment. That’s what I want.”

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Chillwaukee

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On a calm sunny afternoon, I walk through the open door of MKE Kitchen in Riverwest to meet Danielle Dahl and Collin Wallace, owners of Chillwaukee.  I find them chopping rhubarb and juicing buckets of fresh vibrant lemons in the welcoming commercial kitchen that they rent from Kathy Papineau.  This was definitely not what I was expecting when meeting a couple that makes local popsicles.  But what do I know about making popsicles?  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Dahl and Wallace hand-make all of their pops from scratch using fresh ingredients and once the growing season starts, they plan to work with local farmers and use all local produce.  Some of their flavors include Strawberry Rhubarb, Lavender Lemonade, Chocolate Covered Coconut, Arnold Palmer and my personal favorite Bananas Foster.  Trust me, they taste even better than they sound.

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Chillwaukee is all leg power.  Once Dahl and Wallace prepare all their popsicles, they load them into their bicycle/freezer and ride their business to the next event.  “That’s what we’re committed to, we can’t flake out. We gotta prove to people that biking is a viable means to getting where you need to go, even if you run a business,” declares Danielle.  They mentioned that one of the hardest parts of running their business is when you reach a large hill and have to get the fully-loaded bicycle up that hill.  Sometimes it takes two people to push it over.  But the benefits far outweigh the struggles.

Danielle and Collin officially launched their business in May of this year.  The idea dawned on them when they were walking through a festival last fall looking at the vendors and thought, “we can do that.”  The two of them were tired of working inside so they quit their jobs in hopes of spending the summer outside, “hanging out with people and connecting,” says Collin.  Previously a Milwaukee chef, Collin brings a professional food perspective to the business and fixes the bikes, while Danielle’s history in photography and graphic design allows her to do outreach and run the website and social media.  Together they create the recipes. Can you say power couple?

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Although it’s been a steep learning curve, these two have a solid business plan and are already taking on Milwaukee.  They are passionate about the local food movement and dedicated to their sustainable practices. “Keep it really really simple. Keep it local as much as possible. Be good role models for composting. Bike as much as possible. If you want to be in the food scenes, you don’t need to buy a $40,000 food truck and have a generator running all day long…You can keep it small and simple,” explains Collin.  If you want to see where they will be this summer or want to get in touch with them about catering, take a look at their website: www.chillwaukee.com

Three Sisters Farm

Three Sisters Community Farm is a young organic farm run by Kelly Kiefer and Jeff Schreiber. They recently started their farm in 2011 using Kelly’s family land where she grew up and additional land nearby.2016_10_15_csaf_066_2e

The name Three Sisters is unique because it has two meanings: Kelly is one of three sisters and there is a group of three crops that support each other when grown together which native groups called the three sisters. These three crops are corn, beans and squash. The corn grows tall providing a trellis for the beans to climb while the beans create nitrogen rich soil, needed to make plants healthy. And finally the squash grows on a vine which provides ground cover for the soil around the other plants. “We liked the picture of this synergistic combination of plants contributing to the greater benefit of the whole system as a metaphor for how we build relationships with our community of supporters,” mentioned Kelly.

I recently visited their farm in the fall while they had volunteers helping plant garlic and prepping the tomato plants for spring. While having the privilege to speak with Kelly and Jeff, I was able to gain some insight on how much work they do both on and off the farm. Working on the land is not easy and farmers often spend 10 or more hours working on their land every day. But owning a farm also means owning a business. Winter is their opportunity to catch up on calculations for the season, taxes and all of the less glamorous pieces of running a business.

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Kelly and Jeff stay connected to their supporters in multiple ways including volunteer opportunities and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). One of their goals is to build community relationships and create a welcoming sanctuary at their farm so if you are interested in volunteering, I hear they pay in vegetables. For those of you who don’t know, becoming part of their CSA means that you subscribe to the farm for the growing season and Kelly and Jeff deliver fresh produce to a location near you every week. The produce you receive every week depends on what is in season so you get a chance to discover all kinds of new vegetables that you never knew existed. Three Sisters Farm is unique because they actually allow you to pick some of the vegetables that go into your box each week on their website.

So you if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, a CSA to join or just two genuinely welcoming farmers to talk to, look up Jeff and Kelly.

www.threesisterscommunityfarm.com