Moooving On Up

Wisconsin Public TV likes local cooking show

Eric Koeppel

OUT TO PASTURE. The Around the Farm Table crew: Rick Witscher (set designer), Inga Witscher (host), Joe Maurer (musician and editor), and Cow (cow).
OUT TO PASTURE. The Around the Farm Table crew: Rick Witscher (set designer), Inga Witscher (host), Joe Maurer (musician and editor), and Cow (cow).

Gather the family ’round the tube and break out the cheese curds because Around the Farm Table is coming to Wisconsin Public Television. That’s right, ATFT, which started as a Web series that takes place on a local organic dairy farm, has recently been picked up as a four-episode miniseries on WPT, starting Nov 7 on three WPT channels.

For the past year the show has been a series of six- to eight-minute episodes on the ATFT website. Each webisode features one or two local recipes and one farm, and focuses on the preparation of ingredients, interviews with local farmers, farm tours, and traditional production methods. Anecdotes, nuggets of wisdom, and original music are scattered throughout.

The production team consists of three people: Inga Witscher, the host; Inga’s husband, Joe Maurer, the show’s primary musician and editor; and Inga’s father, Rick Witscher, the set designer. The show takes place on the hosts’ farm, St. Isidore’s Mead, in western Wisconsin. It was when Inga began farming at St. Isidore’s Mead nearly seven years ago that she found her true calling as a dairy farmer. As an organic farmer, she prides herself on raising healthy cattle, and having spent time living in Seattle and Virginia, Inga has developed an appreciation for Wisconsin’s farming climate.

“Now that we will have 26 minutes, ATFT will feature two and sometimes three farms, giving the viewer a better sense of agriculture here in the Midwest.” – Inga Witscher, Joe Maurer, and Rick Witscher, the production team for Around the Farm Table, which recently was picked up by Wisconsin Public TelevisionThe Web series attracted WPT’s attention last fall and the crew was asked to put together a pilot. When the folks at WPT saw the pilot (which was recently screened at the Volume One Gallery) this spring, the show was accepted. The crew was thrilled and said they “are so excited to be able to tell the stories and take the viewers on a tour of these wonderful Midwestern farms.”

According to the crew, producing an episode “is always an adventure,” and the transition to a television show makes for an even heavier workload.  “Now that we will have 26 minutes,” they explain, “ATFT will feature two and sometimes three farms, giving the viewer a better sense of agriculture here in the Midwest.”

The trio begins each morning with some milking and tends to their chickens and cows before hitting the road for a day of shooting. “We’ll try to fit as much as we can in before heading home for the evening milking.” The whole process takes almost two months, and after three weeks of preproduction, a week of filming, and another month of writing music and editing, the episode is finally done. It seems like a heck of a lot of work, but the gang maintains a humble attitude about it. “When you see how hard the farmers that we meet work, it’s a walk in the park,” they said. “These folks are up by 3am filling their trucks to take their produce to a farmers market, milking the sheep, filling boxes for the next (community supported agriculture) delivery or moving their beef cows to fresh pasture.”

What makes ATFT such a joy to watch is the care and passion the crew puts into it. The most exciting part for them is getting to know the farmers: “We are delighted that these hard-working folks invite us into their homes and onto their farms to teach us about CSAs, Wisconsin cheese-making traditions, mob grazing, forest gardening, and much, much more,” they explain. “We arrive as strangers and leave as friends.”

Agriculture is an essential part of Midwestern life and the crew seeks to highlight its importance on the show: “Farming is a very specific relationship to the land that not only puts food on our plates. It can shape the landscape for fishing, outdoor life, rural culture, preserve traditions, and influence tourism.”

Visit www.aroundthefarmtable.com to catch up on past episodes before the television show airs.