The City of Brodhead, Wisconsin organizes an event called "Tour the Farms Day" held annually in early spring (May). I had no idea about the event before reading the Travel Wisconsin's Facebook page posting earlier in the week. Good to see the Wisconsin Department of Tourism is doing a good job to drive visitors to rural and lesser known areas of our state.
The media release of information included four farms that would be open to the public for tours. I choose two farms to visit, mostly due to location and my other plans for the day. I was very fortunate that the first that I toured was the Scotch Hill Farm. Selected because it is in close proximity to the Amish Bakery I enjoy and planned on visiting, the Scotch Hill Farm provided for a true learning experience for young and old alike.
It is owned and has been operated as a certified organic farm by Dela and Tony Ends. They have been in operation and growing their family business since 1994, serving as a "Community Supported Agriculture" (CSA) enterprise, bringing their freshly grown produce and farm goods to residents throughout southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. Subscribers can purchase weekly deliveries of goods, delivered to a central pick-up location near their work or home.
Tony served as the guide to me and a family up from Illinois. We learned about his vegetable crops, including the planting and harvesting time tables. Amazingly, he told us that by mid summer, his single row of trellised cucumber plants will produce over 500 cukes per week. Now that is a lot of pickles!
We also spent some time in one of his two greenhouses where lettuce and young tomato plants were seen. From there, we went back to see some of his livestock including chickens, goats and sheep. He told us how producing goat milk as a food product was not very profitable, although they do still make some goat's milk cheese.
More financially viable is goat milk skin and soap products which is a primary focus of his wife Dela. He explained that a gallon of goat's milk retails for about $1.65/gallon but the costs to produce that nets just a nickle profit. Soap however, has a gross retail of around $180, and after costs nets a profit of $20 on that same gallon of milk. So as anyone math student will tell you $20 is much better than five cents.
For more information on Scotch Hill Farm and their CSA efforts, check them out at www.scotchhillfarm.com .
After spending about an hour with Tony, I headed on out with plans to visit Opalicious Honey at the Ten Ayck Apple Orchard. I was previously familiar with the orchard as they are the location of one of the 125 barn quilts that make up the Green County Barn Quilt Trail. During my farm visit, I had hopes to take their honey tour, but unfortunately arrived just after a tour had left and I didn't have the time to wait for the next one.
I did take the opportunity of being on their property to take an updated (and closer) photo of "Apple a Day" - the barn quilt located on their unique round barn.
I applaud the City of Decatur for featuring several of their local farms as part of the "Tour the Farms Day". Kudos to whoever was responsible for the very helpful signage to get visitors to these rural locations. I was reminded by Tony that food is the only consumable that every man, woman and child must have. The land sustains life and farmers bring this subsistence to us every day. He commented that farmers are servants to the community and that he highly respected that obligation and responsibility.