Inga Witscher Around the Farm Table

meet the women and men still tending Wisconsin’s farms, fields, and pastures – from the Chippewa Valley and beyond

photos + words by Around the Farm Table producer Colin Crowley

The seventh season of Around the Farm Table will premiere Thursday, October 3 on Wisconsin Public Television. The Chippewa Valley-based show stars Inga Witscher (above) as she visits Wisconsin farms to meet the people who grow and harvest the food we eat. To celebrate, producer Colin Crowley offers you a set of portraits he took while making the latest season. Enjoy!

1. Inga Witscher

Inga Witscher on location in a forest outside of Viroqua, Wis. for an episode of the upcoming seventh season of Around the Farm Table. Says Inga: “One of the best parts of hosting this show is that it gives me the opportunity to travel around the state and tell the stories of all these unique people who are finding creative new ways to re-imagine small scale agriculture in Wisconsin.”

2. Drew Kaiser

Drew Kaiser, an urban beekeeper, stands in front of a beehive in the backyard of a home in the Putnam Heights neighborhood in Eau Claire. After discovering a mutual love for beekeeping, Drew and his wife Ellen Sorenson worked with the Eau Claire City Council to create an ordinance allowing people to keep beehives in the city. Says Drew: “It was a growing trend around the country to allow beekeeping in cities because it offers a lot of benefits to the bee populations. There is quite a bit of variety in the flowers that grow in yards and gardens in the city so the honey that comes from these urban hives tends to be polyfloral which gives it a lot of different flavors. To me it’s kind of the ultimate in local food.”

3. Natalie Kostman

Natalie Kostman is the Program Manager at Hillview Urban Agriculture in La Crosse, Wis. Hillview operates a greenhouse and vermiculture composting operation in the heart of downtown La Crosse and provides fresh produce, gardening classes and educational opportunities to the community. After spending time in South America working with small scale agriculture, Natalie decided she wanted to dedicate herself to community-based agricultural initiatives back in Wisconsin. Says Natalie: “I love what I do because I really believe in the mission of giving people access to a healthy sustainable food system that isn’t always possible in this city. When a lot of people think of agriculture, they think of the farm fields, so when they don’t have bigger spaces to grow they think it’s just not possible to practice any kind of agriculture. But it can happen right in their cities and even right in their homes and backyards. So it’s really important for us to teach people in the city how to keep that culture of growing things alive.”

“It’s really important for us to teach people in the city how to keep that culture of growing things alive.”

– Natalie Kostman, Hillview Urban Agriculture, La Crosse

4. Diana Murphy

Diana Murphy with two of her dairy goats at her farm in Cross Plains, Wis. Diana, who used to work as a commercial artist, milks her goats daily and produces a variety of fresh, artisanal handcrafted goat cheeses that she sells to local stores and restaurants. Says Diana: “I like to wake up every morning and just step outside into the beautiful environment and be greeted by these animals. I can’t imagine a morning not being shared with the animals. And then just having that opportunity to provide food for other people is really a humbling experience.”

“I like to wake up every morning and just step outside into the beautiful environment and be greeted by these animals.”

– Diana Murphy, Cross Plains, Wis.

5. Tony DiMaggio

Tony DiMaggio stands in a field of cornflowers that he grows as an ingredient for herbal tea. Tony grows a variety of herbs, oats, and flowers in dense polycultures on his farm near Gilmantown, Wis. then harvests them by hand and combines them in different mixtures for a line of herbal teas that he sells as Sacred Blossom Tea. Says Tony, “I believe that growing the plants all mixed together makes for a much more potent herbal medicine and I’m trying to grow the most potent herbs possible. I realized long ago I can’t compete with mass produced herbs where they’re coming in with huge tractors and mowing everything at once. But what I can do is produce the absolute highest quality on a small scale by keeping a close connection with my plants. I love this scale of agriculture and I really love working with these plants. It’s endlessly interesting.”

6. Nick D’Huyvetter

Nick D’Huyvetter works in the garlic field that he is cultivating near Fairchild, Wis. Nick’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from France and settled a dairy farm near Humbird, Wis. in the early 1970s. Two generations later, Nick is continuing the family tradition – milking cows on his family farm and experimenting with small-scale side projects like growing garlic. Says Nick: “I think it’s important to feed your community and the people around you. Growing food locally used to be a lot more commonplace, but over time with the consolidation of things small farmers lost access to a lot of markets and services. So I’m trying to bring some of those things back so people have more options in the food they buy.”

7. Jesse Bennet and Jaye Maxfield

Jesse Bennet and Jaye Maxfield stand among the brush that covers a hillside at Hogback Prairie State Natural Area outside of Steuben, Wis. A husband and wife team of ecologists who work to rehabilitate natural areas, Jesse and Jay manage several herds of goats that they use for clearing brush and controlling invasive species. Says Jesse: “We used to have to use chainsaws, herbicides, and fire to manage natural areas, and then we started using goats as a tool in our toolbox. Now that we have hundreds of goats I’m very much a farmer. Using livestock to clear brush is just a lot less stress and we were able to simplify our life. Over the last 20 years we had human employees for most of this time but goats are to some degree easier to handle.”

8. Damien Mikkelson (left) and Matt Davison (right)

Damien Mikkelson (left) and Matt Davison (right) sit atop their horses at Davison’s farm in Hillsboro, Wis. Matt and Damien work together to train horses to herd beef cattle and perform in rodeo events. Says Damien: “I grew up on a dairy farm but then I started training horses after that. I like this lifestyle because it gives me the chance to be home every day and have lunch with my family. That is something that has really fallen by the wayside, but I’m fortunate to be one of those people who can still do that.”

9. Bjorn Bergman

Bjorn Bergman forages for ramps in a maple forest outside of Viroqua, Wis. Ramps are a species of wild onion that are native to Wisconsin and appear for several weeks every spring. A graduate of UW-LaCrosse, Bjorn moved to Viroqua after college and now works as the Outreach Coordinator at the Viroqua Food Co-op. He dabbles in home cider-making and is an enthusiastic forager of wild foods. Says Bjorn: “Ramps are some of the first things to come out of the ground every year, and its really rewarding to forage something so fresh and bright. The beauty of ramps and native perennials like this is they just do their thing. They’re there, they grow, and you just have to come out and harvest them.”

“The beauty of ramps and native perennials like this is they just do their thing. They’re there, they grow, and you just have to come out and harvest them.”

– Bjorn Bergman, Outreach Coordinator, Viroqua Food Co-op

10. Julie Maro

Julie Maro holds a kid on the small farm where she raises dairy goats in Mondovi, Wis. Soon after she started raising dairy goats, Julie found that they were producing more milk than she and her family could drink, so she decided to start using the milk to make soap. Julie named her handcrafted soap company “Lucy’s Soap,” after her great-grandmother Lucy who owned a farm where Julie would spend time as a girl. Says Julie: “I grew up in Appleton which is not exactly farming country but my great grandparents had a farm just outside of Berlin Wisconsin and it was my favorite place in the whole wide world. My great grandma Lucy was there as I was growing up and she had tons of animals and I decided then and there that that’s what I wanted for my life when I could.”

11. Haly Schultz

Haly Schultz tends to her herd of Murray Grey grass-fed beef cattle while carrying her baby, Eden, on her back on the farm that she and her husband, George, took over from George’s family near Neillsville, Wis. After earning a degree in animal science and spending some time in the African country of Lesotho as a Peace Corps volunteer, Haly eventually found her way to farming. Says Haly: “I didn’t grow up in a farming background, but I knew I liked being outside and I knew I liked working with animals. Then I met my husband whose family had a farm in central Wisconsin, we got married and now we took over his family farm. We had to of decide either to get big and go commercial farming or try something different on a small scale. In the end, we decided try to do something unique and direct market our grass-fed beef cattle and earn a living that way. This way we get to work on the farm together and raise our kids on the farm. We really wanted to do grazing because it’s just the lifestyle that we want to live. We want to be outside in the pastures as a family.”

The seventh season of Around the Farm Table will premiere Thursday, October 3 on Wisconsin Public Television.