Editors Note: Jane Krogstad owns a 110 acre farm of which 3 acres are devoted to organic vegetables, 2 acres to flowers, herbs and fruit trees and the remaining 105 acres is in rye/vetch (55acres) and marsh grass, canary grass and native grasses (45 acres). Prior to receiving this grant the farm was conventionally cropped in a corn and soybean rotation.
Project Description and Results
We initially desired to convert a small portion of the farm to sustainable agricultural methods. Although we had ample acreage (50+ acres tillable) to convert we did not own any mechanical machinery to attempt this large scale operation. Therefore we felt that maintaining five acres of crops was feasible with our limited equipment, which consisted of numerous hand tools. Three acres were planted for a 40-member share CSA by an independent farm couple who were given the space free of charge. Any surplus vegetables were donated later in the season to three local food pantries. These three pantries received approximately 500+ pounds of vegetables over a 14 week period (mid July through October). By having the grant funds available for overhead expenditures we were able to offer this barter of land for food donation. Sandy Roduenz and David Kozlowski of Pinehold Gardens were the CSA operators.
All three of us attended a UW-Extension sponsored second annual farm direct conference on January 13th, 2001. We shared our cooperative WatersMeet Eco Farm agreement with all attendees. Dave Williams, Waukesha County Extension Agent, and Rose Skora, Racine County Extension Agent, were quite interested in this cooperative agricultural operation. I had numerous conversations/updates with Mr. Williams on our progress throughout the 2001 season which he passed to others. My main production was planting approximately two acres of flowers, herbs and fruit trees. Although most of these plantings were hard hit by the drought that encompassed southeastern Wisconsin from early June through mid July, I am hopeful the fruit trees will not be permanently affected. Most however, will not bear fruit for another one to two years. Our largest failure in crop production was due to lack of irrigation systems. The two-acre flower, herb, fruit plantings were too large to be adequately maintained with hand watering. Although we did have hoses and sprinklers, this two-acre area was not watered enough. I am deeply sorry to say that without a permanent irrigation system these two acres cannot be utilized for full production. Next time we would install drip lines for watering and also have more workers to assist with weed control. Even in severe drought conditions the noxious weeds had no problem flourishing. As a single handed operator of this two acre field, I was not physically able to maintain these 48+ beds myself.
From this grant I learned that size of acreage is not as important as scale of task. Forty eight plus rows was too grand an illusion for one person. My future planting layouts will be much simpler and less water demanding. I would plant more wildflower species for my fresh bouquet selections and expand my herb choices. These species appear to be more drought tolerant and hearty under less than ideal conditions. (My initial barrier however, was not possible to overcome during this one season. That being the community wide education of the necessity of small-scale farming operations in a suburban setting.)
This year saw an unprecedented assault on our township by a neighboring municipal village. The village approved their 2020 masterPlan that called for expansion of sewer/water services, roadways and a freeway bypass located on my farm property. As I desperately tried to present a successful family farm operation, my own township declined to stop the forced village expansion boundaries. I was deemed more valuable to tax rolls as a future subdivision and freeway commercial development corridor than a viable agricultural operation. I became the poster child of urban sprawl. The name, face of another family farm buried under the banner of Growth and Progress.
WatersMeet Eco farm has a link/description on the website www.angelfire.com/wi/watersmeet and was host/speaker/presenter at numerous community outreach venues. Our farm was the co-host in a joint initiative with the Big Bend Municipal Court that allowed court ordered community service time to be served by the offending juveniles. I worked side by side with the youth teaching them organic gardening skills. We were also featured in local newspaper articles as well as on an online web article entitled “Enhancing Your Life”. We were guest speakers at the Milwaukee county Earth Day in April, 2000 and April 2001. I spoke by invitation at numerous colleges, public meetings and conservation clubs regarding family farm issues.
In closing, I once again apologize for this generic report. I have had health problems and am now limited to my use of computer. Your support both fiscally and professionally gave me the courage and strength to publically bring forth family farm issues vs municipal growth. Our questions were truly Jurassic in scope and brought forth the essential issue of not whether we could continue this pattern of unwanted/unwarranted sprawl but whether we should. At what price to our family farms and at what cost to our quality of life?
My recommendations for this program are just to continue directly supporting small family farms. Your financial support allowed me to have a voice and a presence in my community and state. For this opportunity to be heard, I am ever grateful.