What if, as a nation, our value of food changed focus? What if we decided to take a stand, make a change and support our local farmers whenever possible? When I attended my very first Soil Sisters event five years ago, I was blown away by the support, knowledge and willingness to help one another. Each Soil Sister brings a unique background and diverse life experiences to the (potluck) table. We all succeed when we help each other up.
Throughout the last several years we have made some significant changes to our farm, and so many have been because of the support, mentorship and Soil Sister love.
By Ashley Wegmueller, The Dairy Farm Stay and Bo & Olly’s Produce (Monroe WI)
Today I got to use my favorite mixing bowl. It is dark blue with white speckles and belonged to my maternal great grandmother. During childhood I used it for making cookies and it was often a part of my 4-H cooking projects. My mother passed it down to me as a wedding gift. I have other mixing bowls, but this one is my favorite.
With the day’s temp rising to nearly 90 degrees it was a good day to work on some indoor projects, saving outside work until later in the day. I decided to make potato salad with the produce I had on hand. As the potatoes boiled, I chopped up herbs and veggies and tossed them into my favorite bowl. The chives, kale and garlic powder were grown on our farm. The potatoes and onions were from a local produce vendor, and the bacon was from a local family farm. It felt great to be using local items knowing the care, attention and dedication it took to grow or raise them.
I love cooking because my mind can wander. Today my thoughts turned to a video I saw earlier this week - I still can’t get it out of my mind. Its focus was on the giant meat processing facilities and impact felt from the pandemic. Because of COVID-related worker shortage, their processing abilities were severely limited. Animals meant to funnel in were backlogged. Farmers, out of alternatives, were forced to euthanize animals. It was similar to the situation a few months ago — farmers plowing unharvested rotting produce back into the ground, milk being dumped, with nowhere for any of it to go. One of the experts suggested a solution — automation of these processing plants because robots “don’t get sick” - but what if the answer has actually been here the whole time?
My paternal grandmother was a teenager during the Great Depression. It was a time when items were meant to be repaired or repurposed, nothing went to waste, and little was disposable. My grandma carried these values with her throughout her life. Growing up, I didn’t fully realize how significant those qualities were. My 10-year-old mind didn’t understand why she cut off the moldy parts of cheese to save the rest, or limited us to only a couple inches of bathwater. Her patchwork quilts weren’t just meant to be pretty; she was using every scrap of fabric. Nothing goes to waste. I get it now. What would she think of our current food system?
What if, as a nation, our value of food changed focus? What if we decided to take a stand, make a change and support our local farmers whenever possible? We have the added bonus of being surrounded by so many wonderful and diverse farms. These are farmers we can meet, have conversations with, and learn about their practices. This gives us the opportunity to see where our food actually comes from, how the animals are treated, and decide how we want to spend our money. Is it more expensive to buy locally? Sometimes. Is the quality better? Definitely. And the taste doesn’t even compare. It is money well spent as it supports our local farmers - our friends and neighbors. Ultimately, it keeps money in our local economy, and is better for our environment and the animals.
We opened our farm stay doors to guests nearly two years ago. Since then, we have hosted families from all over the world. There is one thing they all have in common — they want to learn more about small family farms and support sustainable agriculture. They are hungry to make a connection with their farmer. Opportunity for big change is on the not-so-distant horizon.
When I attended my very first Soil Sisters event five years ago, I was blown away by the support, knowledge and willingness to help one another. Each Soil Sister brings a unique background and diverse life experiences to the (potluck) table. We all succeed when we help each other up.
Throughout the last several years we have made some significant changes to our farm, and so many have been because of the support, mentorship and Soil Sister love. I hope that these changes make my grandmothers proud. I often think of them when I am spending time with my flock of hens or battling weeds in the garden. Did my grandma have a favorite hen? Did she name them? What did she grow in the garden, and how on earth did she cool off after a long day of working in the heat? How many batches of cookies did my great grandma make in the bowl that is now my favorite? Were molasses cookies her specialty? They always make me think of her.
Fresh Garden Potato Salad
10 potatoes, cubed
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3T chives, chopped
1C kale, chopped
Dash salt and pepper
Garlic powder to taste
1T Penzey’s Buttermilk dip mix
Boil potatoes until tender, drain, rinse and allow to cool
Cook bacon and allow to cool
Combine red onion, green onions, chives, kale, salt, pepper, garlic powder and dip mix into large bowl
Add in potatoes and mayo, gently combine
Top with bacon and lightly stir
— Ashley Wegmueller and her husband Dan have a fourth-generation grass-based dairy farm where they milk around 50 Brown Swiss ladies, operate “The Dairy” Farm Stay, and Bo & Olly’s Produce. More info can be found at farmforthought.org or Airbnb: The Dairy Farm Stay in Cheese Country. This Soil Sisters column originally ran in The Monroe Times on 7/26/20.