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Filming the Farm

a chat with Inga Witscher, host of local TV series Around The Farm Table

Thom Fountain

Around The Farm Table's Inga Witscher
Around The Farm Table's Inga Witscher

Around The Farm Table started as a web show and after only one season has gained a regional following and national attention from PBS. We caught up with the show’s host and producer Inga Witscher about why you should support farmers, why soil matters, and why they had a book club with two unlikely characters.

For the uninitiated, what’s the focus of “Around The Farm Table?"

Around The Farm Table is a food and farming adventure that celebrates Midwestern food and small-scale farmers through education and entertainment. Part cooking show, part farming adventure, the episodes start at our small organic dairy with a brief description of what’s happening at our farm before heading off to visit other value-added farms throughout Wisconsin.

Why is it important for people to learn and care about their local farmers?

When we purchase our food from local farmers, we are skipping the middleman and putting our food dollars right into the hands of those hard-working farmers. The value-added farmers we feature on Around The Farm Table all have one thing in common – they strive to create healthier, nutrient-dense food while feeding the soils and conserving the land for the next generations. These are the folks who are planting native habitat for pollinators; these are the folks who are dedicated to cleaning up our rivers and streams. There are so many benefits of buying local: healthier food, fresher food, less food miles travelled, a personal relationship to the farmer, putting money back into our local economy.

What have you learned about farming or agriculture from the show that you didn’t know going in?

Through being a part of Around The Farm Table and visiting a range of diversified farms I’ve realized just how important soil really is. It is so important for us to take care and feed our soils sustainable to be able to grow healthy foods for us to eat. The nutrition content of vegetables in the grocery store has been on a steady decline for years. All of the farmers we visit with have taught us the importance of feeding our soils with cover crops, green manure, compost, and grazing cows. Soil is key to everything, lets all start taking care of it!

Has the show changed at all now that it’s been going successfully for awhile?

Around The Farm Table has stayed for the most part, the same. We are delighted that Peter Eaton – our director of photography (and an Eau Claire native) – has returned from Los Angeles to run camera again for us this year. We also have our friend Shaw Liliquist, helping organize shoots, run sound, and help things run smoothly. My co-creators, Joe Maurer and Rick Witscher, and I have been able to find our groove when it comes to producing a television series. I think we are the only all-dairy farmer production team in television. We love the challenge of learning new things all the time and getting a chance to get off the farm and explore Wisconsin.

Any favorite moments you’d like to share?

We just wrapped up an episode with author Michael Perry. It was such a blast! For the episode, we end with a book club luncheon at our farm. I asked my very manly neighbor if he would mind coming to the book club, he said, “What are my friends going to say if they think I go to book clubs?” Well, he and his brother — another farmer down the road — ended up coming and they drove to our little book club on their tractors! We all sat around with Michael eating a nettle soufflé and drinking dandelion wine. The many farmers looked adorable using their floral napkins and discussing all of Michael’s books.

Anything on the horizon for ATFT?

We are currently in production for our second season of Around the Farm Table. We have been picked up by PBS affiliates all thought the Midwest and we will be seen nationally on PBS FOOD! We couldn’t be more excited about the farmers we will be featuring in the upcoming season: We have bison roaming, camping trips, rent-a-hen, and so much more. In order to help us produce the second season we have set up an IndieGoGo campaign. There are still so many smaller-scale producers here in Wisconsin that we would love to feature to get the word out about their farms. Unfortunately, our income as dairy farmers limits the amount we can spend producing a television series so we are asking everyone to pitch in if you can and help spread the word about all of our inspired farmers here in the Midwest!

Follow Around The Farm Table on Facebook and AroundTheFarmTable.com. Check out their IndieGoGo crowdsourcing campaign to help fund their next season: http://igg.me/at/ATFT