Blogging, Growing, Learning

River Valley Mushroom Ranch

I’ve been struggling with what to post next here on the Crooked Carrot Farm blog, hence the long lapse between posts. Up until now I’ve had an idea that I somehow formulated in my pea brain that my posts should have one main topic, which I break down for readers into neatly organized paragraphs with sensible subject headings. And let me tell you, life is not that darn organized! And it sure ain’t that pretty. So here is my new approach: tell it like it is. And fair warning: you might not like it. Things will get dirty, the truth can suck and you might even disagree with me. And all of that is okay, because it’s part of the beauty of raw, unadulterated life (substitute: vegetables). I’m here to tell my story. I expect to have respectful, vibrant conversation with my readers. And I hope for all of us to be better people and better eaters because of it.

What’s growing and not

So, let’s get down to business. This spring I feel very fortunate to be an annual vegetable grower. Perennial fruit crops have suffered tremendously because of the warm spell in March. Things bloomed early, the weather cooled back to normal and things froze. There will be farmers and farm workers looking for new jobs this year and more than one orchard going out of business. Nature is no doubt a humbling creature.

Despite being over-watered in the field, the vegetables are doing well. What’s coming up: garlic, shallots, carrots, beets, arugula, spinach, mizuna, kale, parsnips, fava beans, turnips, potatoes. What should be in the ground, but isn’t: onions, lettuce. I have a lot growing safely in the greenhouse, too. Soon the kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower and pac choi will be going out into the field. The tomatoes and peppers are recovering from an over-watering incident and I’m enjoying watching the celery grow. This is my first year growing it.


Yesterday I went to an apple grafting workshop hosted by Riveredge Nature Center as a collaboration between them and Wellspring Farm. It wa

s sponsored in part by Sauve Terre Farm and taught by Mark Shepard. It blew my mind. Yes, I learned a ton about apple grafting and I’m convinced that in the future I will find myself working at a nursery. More importantly though, I came away with a new perspective on farming, or really a hope that farming really isn’t bound by the rules and concepts I have learned up until now.

Today I went to River Valley Mushroom Ranch (picture above!) and learned a ton about mushrooms. I think they are fascinating and we are really fortunate to have such a great business in Wisconsin. Besides mushrooms, they also make a lot of their own canned goods and have ten acres in vegetables. Visit them at your local farmer’s market! Buy a mushroom growing kit- guaranteed to grow!

While in Burlington I also stopped by AeppleTreow Winery & Distillery. I will definitely be going back for the crabapple mead. (It wasn’t ready yet.) My cupboard is now home to a few hard ciders and a scrumptious pear dessert wine that makes me feel like I’m sitting under a fifty year old pear tree, leaning against its hollowed out trunk, gorging myself on the ripest fallen pears. Yum, yum, yum.

We’re all in this thing together

I have to admit that this year has been frustrating for me in a way. The whole organic versus conventional war is really starting to irk me. I understand that it’s really easy to put people into categories, to slap labels on things and choose a side to fight for. That is not how great innovation happens though. Organic and conventional farmers have a lot more in common than many are willing to admit. We can achieve a lot more working together than by bashing one another for our choice of farming practices. And consumers are fighting in this war, too. Sure, you can turn your nose up at broccoli sprayed with pesticides and herbicides that was shipped from thousands of miles away, but remember, a human being grew that broccoli. They probably have a family and have bills to pay and they are doing what it is that they know how to do, just like the rest of us.

I’m happy to share that there are really good community-building efforts being made by farmers. Farming can be a very isolating career, but I’m fortunate to have a wide support group. When I farmed at Earth Harvest Farm, the East Troy area hosted mostly farmer-populated monthly potlucks. I met some amazing people, learned incredible things and ate the most delicious food in the world at these potlucks. Now, here in the Milwaukee area, we’re starting the same tradition. Community support is vital to small businesses and it isn’t just the cash flow that matters. It’s the cultural support, too. And it’s through grassroots efforts that we can break down the negative mentalities and damaging concepts that threaten the future of farming.

I have been stuck in some of my own less than constructive thinking patterns, and I’m just starting to come around. It’s extremely easy to list reasons not to try something new. It takes courage to do something different. Usually I’m all for doing thorough research and cost benefit analysis before tip toeing into a new project. But I’m realizing that there is also a time for just diving in head first. We shouldn’t be so afraid to fail. It’s only a failure if we fail to learn from it.

So go hunt for morel mushrooms! It’s okay if you don’t find any. You’re not a failure. 😉

Blogging, Growing, Learning

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