Winterfell Acres

Brooklyn, WI

A woman-led CSA farm dedicated to bringing you fresh, local and organically grown vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs in three share sizes to fit your eating and cooking goals.

What CSA Means to Me

When I started Winterfell Acres in 2013 the only way I could get my produce to people was with CSA. There was no other option for me, I wouldn't consider selling wholesale with such a small acreage, I didn't know any chefs to sell to and I had enough experience with farmers' markets that I knew I wouldn't be able to make enough with my limited time as a one-woman farm. I could only imagine selling to people who I knew and who were interested in support a fledging small farmer. I also had almost no start up capital so the influx of cash at the beginning of the season was (and still is) key to my success. Most farmers out there take out loans at the beginning of the season to purchase inputs and seeds and equipment, while paying it off (sometimes only some of it) when the harvest comes in. Farming has so many variables (net income being the late on the totem pole) and CSA is quite unique in that I can actually budget my income pretty well from year to year and that is only because of my supportive CSA members who are willing to pay ahead of time for veggies that come months later. Most farmers do not have that degree of stability and security when it comes to their annual income. I know that each year I can pay the land mortgage and my Kubota tractor loan if member continue to sign up. This is what makes CSA remarkable and quite an anomaly within the farming movement.

CSA members are what keeps the ball rolling at Winterfell Acres and you are a vital part of this partnership. Because that is essentially what CSA is: a partnership between farmers and eaters. The farm, in its current form, does not exist with YOU and your willingness to go out of your way to pay ahead of time for your organic veg, to stop by your local pick up site on your way home from work weekly and your excitement to come out to the farm.

I know that I there will always be someone out there who can market better than me and who can offer a more convenient product than me. So I try to offer something deeper and more meaningful than just organic veggies: a connection to the land where your veggies come from and a relationship with me, your farmer. 

One of the veteran CSA farmers in WI, Dan Guenthner of Common Harvest Farm puts it perfectly, "The one thing that we [as CSA farmers] can consistently do better than almost any other type of orientation to organic food is based upon relationship, that we can connect, we can be connected, we can be vulnerable, we can offer this authentic, this really authentic connection and experience."

That is my goal with deepening my commitment to the CSA movement (because it's not just a marketing strategy for me). I want to be vulnerable and authentic with you, my CSA members. I want to share our land and the fruits of my labor with you. I want you to feel free to come out to the land where your veggies grow. Because all of this, my business, our land, my ability to continue to farm is because of you. 

When people ask me why I pursued farming as a career choice, I always tell them: this was the one small thing I could do to help change the world and make it a better place. 

Thanks for reading!

Farmer Beth

November 2016

Cheers to a great growing season! I have so much gratitude for my supportive CSA members, hard working worker shares and family and friends who all helped make this season a success!

Every season I keep a notebook FULL of ideas, failed experiments and successful experiments, notes about which crops did well and which did not so well. At the end of the season, I go back and reread my notebook. Sometimes it's challenging to read my notes about all the hard parts of the season. But it's also exciting to read about the successes. As I read through my notebook, I write down comments that I had about each crop and I write a season reflection which I would like to share some of below. My end of season reflection and your CSA survey results are what help me optimize the farm better during the winter months. 

Crops that did well:

  • Brussels sprouts: So big and so tall this fall- there were plants that were literally taller than me! Only bad news is that they matured earlier than usual and many of the lower sprouts rotted on the stalk. I am considering putting these in the shares earlier next year if this threatens to happen again to avoid this crop loss.
  • Head lettuce: This year I planned for 4 beds devoted to head lettuce since CSA members indicated they liked it in 2015. I really love growing all the amazing variations of reds and greens and purples that head lettuce offers. I plan on expanding to 6 beds in 2017.
  • Onions: Yay for plastic mulch! Because of plastic mulch, we had an abundance of onions this year.
  • Peppers: Holy cow- did you get sick getting a handful peppers every week?! With the humidity and heat this summer, I've never grown so many ripe peppers before. YAY! And wow hot peppers galore! I even am learning to like hot peppers now. I expect this year to be an anomaly but who knows with how the climate is changing.
  • Sweet corn: Although I spaced out the two successions that I planted, both varieties decided to produce all around the same time. I was really happy with the amount but would like even more for next year. Sweet corn is one of those special crops that a lot of CSAs don't produce because it takes up so much space for relatively little yield and profit. 2017 *might* be the last year I grow sweet corn for the CSA as I ramp up production on our new land. I don't want to grow past the 1.2 acres I plan on growing on next year and sweet corn would be the easiest to cut from the roster. I also believe sweet corn is challenging to grow, harvest and store correctly. And on top of that, organic varieties are generally much less sweet than the conventional sweet corn varieties. These are all the things I consider as I plan for 2017 and beyond.
  • Sweet potatoes: I was really happy with the sweet potato slips I got from a new supplier this year and they produced really well. If this abundance happens again in 2017, I will set up a sweet potato curing area in my pack shed to increase storability of these sweet tubers.

Crops that didn't do well:

  • Cabbage: I just can't seem to figure out how to grow fall cabbage... We had great mini cabbages in the spring but the rest rotted in the field. I'm sure the huge rainfall and high humidity this season didn't help. I am hoping that our new land will grow fall cabbage better because I love to make fall sauerkraut!
  • Cucumbers: I was surprised and taken off guard by how much disease there was this year and how little the cucumbers produced because of it. Normally I feel like I am drowning my CSA members is cucumbers but I barely had enough this year. I am guessing this was an anomaly and we will be back to regular production next year.
  • Peas: Complete crop failure due to weeds. I am trying these ONE more year! I will figure this out!
  • Root crops (beets, carrots, etc.): Although I stayed much more on top of the weeding this year, I still missed out on keeping up with the carrots. And the cows got into my field once topping most of the beets... Sometimes you just have to cut your losses, move on and seed more anew. Which is exactly what I did this year.. which is why we only had carrots twice. Next year though! So many carrots will be happening. And I am sure no one is complaining about the lack of beets except me.
  • Tomatoes: Oh tomatoes... This year was VERY wet and humid. And tomatoes do not do well with that kind of weather. Disease ran rampant and the tomatoes stopped producing by mid-September (about one month earlier than last year). Good news is that they started producing earlier as well so I was able to hit my production goals anyway. I was very glad I choose to add 100 feet of hybrids to the mix this year as well which helped extend the disease resistance a bit. The heirloom tomatoes did really poorly this year as a result of the disease. I am hoping with increased nutrients to the tomato plants in 2017 that this will help mitigate some disease issues.
  • Winter squash: Again this year! Many of you may have noticed the lack of storability of the winter squash this year. You would think (and rightly so) that a pie pumpkin would store on the kitchen counter for more than a couple weeks but apparently not this season. Between squash bugs, cucumber beetles and various fungal diseases, I was constantly dumping rotting squash as I was packing the fall CSA shares. I did my best but I would rather give winter squash even with the risk of them not lasting than not give them at all.

Thanks for all your support this season! Travis and I will be busy this winter building the pack shed, clearing honey suckle from our new land and then going to Europe for a whole month! Woot!

2017 CSA sing up begins January 1st, 2017!