Have you always been an eco-farmer, or did you make a change?
David was born and raised on a diversified Wisconsin family farm. We conventionally farmed for three years on a farm before this one. At Vermont Valley we’ve always farmed organically.
What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?
I don’t know that there’s been a specific, big hurdle. There have been huge learning curves for 20 years, and the learning curves haven’t stopped. We were new at vegetable growing. We were new at being certified organic. We were new at CSA. We were new at all of this, and so along the way we just kept learning and growing.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received about farming?
I’ve learned a lot by talking with other farmers and visiting their farms. We learned what it meant to be a CSA member by being members of a CSA before we started ours. I never had the opportunity to intern or work on a CSA. We were one of the earlier CSAs. A handful of CSAs had marketed into Madison for two years prior, and we were all figuring it out as we went. Now I do presentations and workshops and try to impart important concepts to farmers as they begin their CSAs.
What do you see in store for the future of sustainable farming?
I think it’s going to keep growing by leaps and bounds. People are becoming more aware of how their food is grown. Taking care of the land and growing healthy food in a sustainable way is key. It makes sense. When things make so much sense they’re not going to go away. When we first started our CSA people would ask, “Do you think this is a fad? How long do you think this fad will last?” We didn’t believe it was a fad, it made too much sense. CSA allows people to connect with the farm, they connect with the farmer, the food is distributed locally, dollars spent strengthen the local economy. In our 20 years running the CSA we’ve seen the movement grow bigger and stronger, and I think it will continue to do so. What do you enjoy most about living off the land? I enjoy being able to live with nature all of the time. I watch the sunrise, and I watch the sunset. I haven’t bought a vegetable at the grocery store in 20 years. We don’t eat anything out of season, and everything we consume is raised locally — we know who raised it and how it was raised. It’s been pretty special living here. I don’t know if I lived in town if my awareness would be quite as heightened.
This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Acres U.S.A.