The Community Thresher

The Community Thresher

By Tony @ Stoney

I was born on this farm. My grandfather homesteaded it in the 1940s. Growing up we had a 50 cow conventional dairy like so many other farms in the state at the time and so many other of my neighbors. We had five neighbors on this road. One of them was my Grandparents. Two others were 50 cow dairy farmers like our selves; Linus Risch and Lenny Becker. Our farms were very similar in scale and acreage, but all slightly distinct with our own little honed skills, priorities and innovations. We observed each other and helped one another.

Our biggest tractor was a Deutz 8006. An 80 horse tractor that did the plowing, tillage, chopping and other heavy lifting. My dad liked Deutzs for their utility and fuel efficiency. With precise German engineering and the (oil crisis) inspired innovation of the air-cooled engine you could do all the work of a John Deere or a Ford with 2/3rds the fuel. It was also more affordable. Some people call it a poor man’s John Deere, I call it a smart man’s John Deere. A mile down the road Linus Risch had a big red International 966 that was the 84 hp beast of his farm. It was a more common tractor on the American Landscape with big rear tires and a powerful axel with a lot of torque and snort. Lenny had a 90 horse Ford.

When it came time to pump our manure pits we would hire a local service to come around with their tankers and do the spreading in one clean day. The manure spreading service snorted in the yard with 1066 internationals with maybe even a 1466, which seemed like the biggest tractors around those days. To make the job more efficient and be on the scene to make sure the manure was put where it was supposed to, My dad joined the spreading. Another neighbor, Tony Eckert, had his own smaller manure tanker 3 miles away. Tony would let us use the tanker which we would run with our big deutz and Linus would let us use his big red international (not quite as big as the 1066s but big enough to run the pump with a 6ix inch pipe that filled the tankers with liquid manure lickity shit.) That was my job, it was so interesting and empowering to be on another big tractor and see its features and how it worked. When Linus, or Lenny or Tony needed to pump their pits our Big Deutz when down the road to run the pump and save them some of the cost of the service and get the job done that much faster. (Linus’ son Kenny and Tony’s son Nathan were some of my boyhood friends.) If a tractor went down or was having issues on one farm the neighbor only had to come in the yard with a little small talk and a mild look of concern on their face and our tractor would be there to get their hay made. The Big Deutz always came back with a full tank of gas.

It was a community. One based on a common experience that cut across political and religious lines that reinforced itself with cooperation, empathy, and mutual support. In the 20s 30s and 40s my grandparents operated their 20 or 30 cow dairies with an even greater degree of cooperation. The neighborhood had but one or two tractors or one plow or one thresher (combine). Come harvest time the thresher would move around the neighborhood and a crew of able bodied men and boys would bring the neighborhood’s harvest in together.

As technological regimes have continued to scale up and capitalist consolidation sticks it tentacles into every crevice of every market on the planet, the farm crisis deepened, farms were lost and community’s like ours have thinned and unraveled quite a bit. We sold our cows and rented the land. Linus and Lenny sold their farms to Amish Farmers one of which just bailed and sold out to the biggest farmer in Athens who just cash crops the land. Needless to say I have a bitter populist taste in my mouth for the domination of consolidation and the motives of an ever increasing scale of technology (I don’t always think it is motivated by the lessening of human toil and suffering.) I wasn’t rushing to sell any commodities, but I loved my farm, and the experience of the community thresher was one of the inspirations for that love.

When I came back to the farm in 2006 my parents had hung onto the land. They are and continue to be the main source of support I have on the farm. But when I needed to take some beef to the butcher Tony Eckert was there with his cattle trailer and my plain clothed neighbor Andrew Berry lets me use his manure spreader every spring to haul out my bedding pack (Manure). He’s not interested in my rusty old Deutz but I always give him a ham. 

It would not be possible to have this farm without intergenerational and community support.

In 2013, we had just got pizza on the farm going and were a stop on a Slow Food Marathon County tour of local farms. A young couple came to the farm to check it out. I sat down to have a glass of wine with them and they told me that they were originally from Wausau, were moving back to the area, and wanted to start a CSA. Over the next couple of months Kat and I got to know Stacey and Tenzin Botsford and recruited them to buy land for their farm nearby. When Tenzin asked me, “Don’t you think it would be awkward to have two farms of a very similar nature so close together?” I responded: “2 farms; One set of equipment; endless opportunities for cooperation and collaboration!” My mom and dad, personally aware of the potential of local food and seeing the promise in this young couple sold them a forty, Red Door Family Farm was born and the Community Thresher was reincarnated. They are more than neighbors, more than fellow farmers. They are some of our best friends. We borrow and lend equipment, commiserate and learn from each other’s challenges, help out with projects, observe each other’s innovations, and share in each other’s joys. My daughter Maple is six months younger than their daughter Leona and 18 months older than their daughter Iris. “We’re BFFs” according to Maple and just a stroll through the woods away. When their hoophouses blew down in heavy winds we helped mobilize the cleanup and drove posts for the new ones. They were there for us through the pain and messiness of our divorce. When they needed to buy their farm’s tractor they asked us for input. It just so happened I found an 8006 Deutz for sale on Craigslist. The Big Deutz was coming home, this time with 4 wheel drive and a cab. Last night, after walking through the woods to watch our kids play and debrief our CSA boxes with a bottle of wine Stacy and Tenzin lamented that their big Deutz had finally died this past spring after 14,000 hours. I might miss it more than they do as I drove it half the time. When they expressed concern that they didn’t have a production tractor I simply said, “We have tractors.” When I whined about the pace of my cucumbers they sent me home with six bushels of theirs for the CSA box. I was again reminded of the value of cooperation, the meaning of friendship and the power of the community thresher. The family farm thrives because of it.

A New Vision for Agriculture in Marathon County

In a recent editorial the Record Review brought up a host of issues surrounding the NTC Agricultural Center for Excellence. While the editorial focused on the school’s limited outcomes due to the model it presents the critique ultimately went to the heart of the matter: the rapid consolidation of the dairy industry and the death of our wonderful family farming legacy in Marathon County. The editorial cited the rapid loss of family farms over the last two years and logically and horrifically projected a county 15 years in the future that is farmed by 10 to 15 factory farms. The editorial again focused me on an issue that I have grappled with my entire adult life but also inspired me to think again about what could be.

NTC’s Agricultural Center for Excellence is a symptom of the emerging dominance of factory farms. The school was set up with little attention to the economic and social impacts of agricultural consolidation and presents students, farmers and the community an image of the farmer as someone who owns a $700,000 forage harvester. This image cannot be paid for by a 50 cow dairy on $15 per hundredweight milk. NTC’s Agricultural Center has been incredibly slow to focus on rotational grazing and does so now in a token manner at best with most of the grazing fences surrounding row crops and the “grazing herd” being managed on a tiny adjacent pasture. At a time when the grazing model is one of the only available to new or undercapitalized farmers the Center places far too much emphasis on the idea of “Diary Diversity” (both big and small farms), a concept invented by promoters of factory farms to distract from their emerging domination, and an economic model unfit for people without millions to invest. Big Farms eat small farms for breakfast; in terms of their access to capital and ability to leverage credit, in terms of their ability to control land, and in terms of their relationship to commodity and input markets and their ability to leverage volume discounts that the little guys end up subsidizing at the retail rate. The dairy school is too worried about ruffling the feathers of those who benefit from consolidation to look at the long term alternatives that might best benefit our region. Quite honestly we believe farmers with 2,000 animals in confinement do not need a new training center that serves them because they are served by, and a product of, the dominant system that has bled family farmers and gutted rural communities. That is not to say somehow these farms are owned by bad people but rather our focus, like in any public sector program, should not be to serve those who have the most or serve a model that quite honestly is not open to most or even a few young farmers.

What is lost with consolidation is not only that proud sense of history that family farmers and so many in our county feel, but also a more environmentally sustainable system, more egalitarian communities, and an economic democracy where many have an independent stake and more meaningful control over their lives. What is lost with agricultural consolidation and disappearing family farms is the agricultural American Dream.

With those values in mind, I want to propose a possible and more hopeful direction for the future of Marathon County Agriculture. The trends of rotational grazing and localized food systems are flourishing and growing.  Both systems are based upon the legacy, stewardship and democracy of family farming.

 Let us begin with what we know and what we have, a lot of great family farms. Of the 641 dairy farms in Marathon County over 150 and growing are grass based in which farmers rotationally graze their animals. We need to showcase the unique capacity for sustainable production our own region holds. Terroir is the French word meaning “the flavor of place”. Many items known the world over hail from a very specific region; Champagne, Vidalia onions etc. I’ve been daydreaming lately of what could be Marathon County’s Terroir: grass based dairy products. Marathon County has always had a ton of diary capacity, but in the last 10 years we’ve seen the awakening of what has been know as the grazing movement. If pursued Marathon County could be know the world over for its grass based dairy products. There are so many wins: a better market for our county’s grazing dairies and the preservation of our family farms, the environmental benefits of mitigated phosphorus run-off, carbon sequestration, and dramatic reduction of soil erosion. The economic benefits could be a bedrock for the county for years to come. This type of agriculture could last 1000 years. The obstacles involve these farmers coming together to forage this identity and cooperatively and aggressively sell this concept to the world. It would take a dedicated and connected core of farmers and promoters.

Closer to home, we are motivated by a local and organic food movement, a deeper economy, by the bigger picture of a just, sustainable, and democratic food system. It turns out that this movement has lots of economic development potential, and not just any potential, but an economy that takes the high road and is better all around for people involved in it and the land upon which it is based. Demand for local food is far outstripping supply nationally as well as locally in North Central Wisconsin, there are many niches to be filled and a lot of market left to be cultivated.

Since the economic downturn, local and organic food has been almost unfazed by the broader great recession. In 2008 the United States Department of Agriculture estimated local food sales to be $4.8 billion nationally. Last year they topped $7 billion with no end in sight. This isn’t just farmers markets which have been booming, more and more restaurants are featuring it on their menus, grocery stores are sourcing locally and carving out sections of their stores with local labels and food miles information.  Even wholesale distributors like Rinhart and Sysco, recognizing explosive growth, have created local food options for regional supply. The Wisconsin Farmers’ Union which started the great farmer co-ops of the 20s and 30s like CENEX has recently invested its capitol in another great cooperative venture: The Wisconsin Food Hub, which aggregates local food and distributes it to local outlets.

Beyond sales of vegetables and meat, local processing is making a comeback. At this past year’s Organic Farming Conference we learned about local meat curing efforts, local organic breakfast cereal production, and small scale frozen sweet corn. On our own farm we’ve considered raising wheat for local flour, raising sunflowers for local organic oil, freezing fruit for a Wausau Winter Market, and we’ve always been proponents of raw milk, not simply for raw milk itself, but as the basis for the renewal of the local creamery.  There are so many options! Any microfood enterprise that can be imagined can be realized on a small scale locally.

In an era of globalization where whole local economies are being scrapped, thinking local first and buying from our neighbors is not only necessary to sustain our communities, it allows us to realize our capacity, harness our power and creates a vital interdependence that is one of the most satisfying parts of life. Of all the great statistics that are emerging about the explosion of local and organic food the one that is most exciting is what we have yet to realize. Last year Marathon County spent around $250,000,000 on groceries. If just 10% is captured, that is $25 million dollars that stays in our community. That’s around 200 more family farms of our type making an honest living in Marathon county. That’s $25 million for our schools, our civil society, our churches, our continued investment in ourselves. If anyone else feels this way, we want to know, and we want to build this future with you standing on our county’s proud legacy of family farming.

Tony Schultz owns and operates Stoney Acres Farm in Athens, WI

What Does it Mean to Eat Well

What does it mean to eat well?

By Tony Schultz, Farmer, Stoney Acres Farm

This past winter I was invited to speak on a panel in Madison with the famous chef Odessa Piper, a Nobel Prize winning climate scientist, a UW Madison Sociologist, and a Grass-based cattleman. We were asked to respond to the question: “What does it mean to eat well?” and as we begin our CSA season together I want share some of my thoughts.

            I began with a bit of deadpan humor. “To eat well is to eat a diet high in fiber and low in saturated fat. Thank you. Goodnight. …   …   …”   Of course that joke is meant to highlight that an answer to this question is multidimensional and much deeper than the limited narrative about what makes food good, a narrative created by food and diet corporations and mainstream nutritionists. To eat well is an act that enriches every aspect of our lives, it is personal and political it has implications for the economic, ecological, cultural and the spiritual. I could speak from many angles on infinite topics and contexts regarding this question, but I’ve boiled it down to five or so points.  

To eat well is to cook. Perhaps no other act is more crucial, more fundamental to people eating well on a mass scale. If you are cooking you are more likely to be using fresh whole foods not simply floating through the world ingesting the random processed calories that make up the negative core of the western diet. If you are cooking you are much more likely to be asking questions that lead to a more complete act of eating well like… What will this do to my health? Who can I share this with? Was this sprayed? Who picked this? What are the conditions of the people who raised this? Where did my food come from? I always say that the people who love the CSA the most are people who like to cook.

To eat well is to eat seasonally. If you are eating seasonally you are likely eating food at its freshest and most flavorful; when it is ready to be eaten and delivers the most nutrition. If you are eating seasonally you are likely eating from a farmers’ market and in doing so supporting local agriculture helping to create a multiplier effect in the local economy.  To paraphrase the great Barbra Kingsolver, author of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, The pleasure of eating seasonally is the great joy you receive when food comes to you in its season. Asparagus arrives. You gluttonize yourself with butter sauce and make jokes about asparagus pee and just when you are starting to get sick of it, it’s strawberry time!

To eat well is to eat like a flexitarian. I think Michael Pollen summarized the last words anyone needs to know when wondering about eating healthy: Eat food. Not to much. Mostly plants.  To eat mostly plants is to eat like what is known as a flexitarian, and there is good reason to be one. It’s widely accepted that large quantities of red meat may be problematic, health-wise, and we know that many people have made it a goal to eat less meat because large-scale industrial production is damaging to the environment, the animals, and the family farm economy. However I think there is a place for meat especially in sustainable agriculture. All of my animals have a function in our system at the farm. Chickens eat flies and weed seeds. Pigs are better rototillers than I could ever be. My grazing cows keep my land in pasture controlling soil erosion, phosphorous run-off and sequestering more carbon than almost any other land use. Actually what I like most about my animals isn’t their eggs, bacon or steaks, it is their manure. Animals are my primary source of fertility for my vegetables and are how we work to close the circle on our farm and make it more sustainable. It is my general suggestion that we eat half as much meat and pay twice as much for it to be raised well.

To eat well is not to eat anonymously. This statement has two meanings: share your meals and know your farmer. I wrote this when Kat took the kids to a weekend meeting in another part of the state. I thought I would be liberated, but I ended up defrosting a pizza fry with an anxious sense of longing. If I ever eat by myself in a restaurant I experience some of my most dreadful feeling of loneliness as people look at me like a zoo animal. Eating seems to be a primal social act that bonds us and helps to break down barriers in the act of sharing a common human need and in our current social context I feel less awkward about drinking a bottle of wine when I share it. The other part of this statement is to know your farmer. Knowledge is power and knowing where your food comes from is the most important factor in making our food system more just, sustainable, democratic and fun. As the author Wendell Berry has said, “A significant part of the pleasure of eating is one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes.”  

To eat well is to eat in a world where everyone is able to eat well. Local organic food cannot simply be some foodie culture war expression - Some novelty of the educated, upper middle class culturally privileged. To eat well means to have a critique of local, organic, justly produced food. It is to be ashamed of its sometimes rightful (but often wrongful) portrayal as elitist. To eat well means to sacrifice and fight and beg and demand that good food be present in all classes and all dinnertables of our society. That it be a recognition by all those who care about eating well that it not be isolated to their circles and sensibilities. To eat well is to share the principles of eating well and share these meals with everyone. Understanding this is important to expanding the presence of local, organic and fair-trade food. Our CSA coalition “Fairshare” is constantly thinking about how to reach “mainstream eaters,” folks who may not be exposed to CSA.  Achieving this is not simply a matter of educating or speaking differently to different demographics, it is about understanding where people are, knowing that our liberation and the liberation of our food system is bound up with one another and participating in struggles together to raise access to education, raise incomes, raise access to land.  More than ending an exploitative food system, and saving the world from environmental destruction, this may be our most important task and our most effective means of achieving and just, sustainable, and nourishing food system.  

Can Organic Feed the World: Part One The claims and a review of agricultural research


by and for Stoney Acres Farm

From the early nineties until the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008 the organic food market has been booming, with organic product sales growing by 20% per year and organic acreage growing 14.3 percent. Despite the current economic crisis organic agriculture continues to grow. Total U.S. organic sales, including food and non-food products, were $26.6 billion in 2009, up 5.3 percent from 2008 according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2010 Organic Industry Survey. In the past 10 years organic has increasingly become mainstreamed with more consumers demanding more products and more farmers finding supportive stable markets and other benefits with this method of agriculture. With increasing popularity, organic methods challenge the status quo as they offer a viable alternative to chemical dependant agriculture and the factory farming of livestock. This challenge raises questions about environmental sustainability, human health, and the quality of life in rural communities. In response, defenders of industrial agriculture have addressed this threat by feeding the public a diet of misleading and inaccurate statements, claiming, among other things, that organic farming offers no real benefits and organic products are no better than industrially produced foods. Beyond many baseless claims, one of the most common attacks is that “organics will starve us or starve the poor,” as this niche could not possibly produce enough food to feed the world without factory farm efficiency and petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. We are particularly interested in looking into this claim. Can organic feed the world? We plan to look at yield based studies this week, and to focus on studies which look more closely at long term impacts of industrial versus organic systems next week. From what we have read it appears that organic methods can feed us.

Several recent national and international studies have helped to answer this question with their comparisons of conventional and organic methodology and their subsequent yields. In plain yield based terms, in short term trials it appears that organic agriculture is similarly productive on a national level, and in poorer areas can be much more productive. Research conducted by the UN Environment Program found that organic practices outperformed traditional methods and chemical-intensive conventional farming and suggests that organic, small-scale farming can deliver the increased yields which were thought to be the preserve of industrial farming, without the environmental and social damage which that form of agriculture brings with it. An analysis of 114 projects in 24 African countries found that yields had more than doubled where organic, or near-organic practices had been used. That increase in yield jumped to 128 per cent in east Africa.

Nationally, the Wisconsin Integrated Cropping Systems Trial (WICST) project recently concluded 13 years of research comparing conventional and organic crop yields in the southern part of the state. According to the results, which were published in the Agronomy Journal organic systems produced corn and soybeans 90 percent to 98 percent as well as conventional systems. An analyses of similar field trial studies done during the past several years in Iowa, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Michigan shows that on average organic and low-chemical corn yields were 98 percent to 114 percent of conventional corn yields; soybean yields under sustainable systems averaged 94 percent to 111 percent of their conventional counterparts. However, organic systems can be particularly vulnerable to wet conditions early in the season. Since organic systems cannot utilize herbicides, they must rely on mechanical weed control such as rotary hoeing to control weeds. If excessive wet weather at the wrong times of the year makes it difficult to get weed-killing steel out in the field, yields suffer. Field trials show that when weather conditions prevent good mechanical weed control, corn and soybean yields average about 74 percent of their conventional counterparts.

Another issue in yield comparisons has to do with rotation as most organic systems are more complex than the corn-soy rotations that have come to dominate so much of conventional agriculture. A study at the USDA-ARS Beltsville Farming Systems Project and published in The Agronomy Journal revealed that in a traditional corn-soybean rotation organic yields were 76-82% of conventional, but when a more complex organic rotation of corn, soybean, wheat, and hay were used the result was a 30% increase in yields which were essentially the same as conventional if not better.

To conclusively answer the original question Professor Ivette Perfecto and colleagues, at the University of Michigan's school of Natural Resources and Environment, analyzed published studies on yields from organic farming. They looked at 293 different examples. "Model estimates indicate that organic methods could produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base," they wrote in their July 2007  report, published in the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. Beyond the question of yield, is what is necessary to achieve those yields and the different methodologies impact on the land and broader environment so we can continue to be feed in the long term. Stay tuned, we will examine these questions next week.

Can Organic Continue to Feed the World: Part Two of Series


by and for Stoney Acres Farm

Last week we looked at the raw research data which compared yields for grains in organic and conventional agriculture. Beyond the straight comparison, is an analysis that looks more seriously at the practices of organic and conventional agriculture and their impacts on food security.  When we consider more complex agricultural systems and how grains are currently used (not necessarily to feed people), the productivity and stability of organic systems seems to be of even more importance.

Despite corn and soy’s dominance of our agricultural landscape we must also take into consideration other crops, such as those eaten by people rather than cows, (or used to make ethanol… which confuses this ‘feeding the world’ question a bit.) In 2002 the Los Angeles Times reported on a 21 year Swiss study between organic and conventional systems examining a broader selection of crops. The comprehensive study, published in Science magazine, not only compared yields but examined other claims by studying energy use, inputs, and pollution. Organic crop yields averaged about 20% less than conventionally farmed crops, although the differences covered a wide range. At the low end, were potatoes due to challenges such as blight and the Colorado Potato Beatle yields were 58% to 66% of those produced by conventional means. The production of wheat reached 90% of a conventional harvest. Overall, organic farming methods used 50% less energy, 97% less pesticide and as much as 51% less fertilizer than conventional methods. While yields may not be equal the inputs that provided for those yields were dramatically lower. This point broadens the picture, for it is not simply a question of just yield but the resources used to achieve those yields. Also, the sustainability of those yields was not in question. After two decades of cultivation, the soil in the study's test plots was still rich in nutrients, resistant to erosion and readily water absorbent.

Organics’ dedication to soil health was evident in an apple comparison at Washington State. The six-year study published in Nature April 2001, concluded that organic apple farming was not only better for the soil and the environment than its conventional counterpart but had similar yields, higher profits and greater energy efficiency.

In a review of the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial comparing soil fungi activity, crop yields, energy efficiency, costs, organic matter changes over time, nitrogen accumulation and nitrate leaching across organic and conventional agricultural systems, David Pimentel, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture, concludes, "Organic farming offers real advantages for such crops as corn and soybeans." Organic farming produces the same yields of corn and soybeans as does conventional farming, but uses 30 percent less energy, less water and no pesticides, induce less erosion, maintain soil quality and conserve more biological resources than conventional farming does. Pimentel is the lead author of a study that is published in Bioscience (Vol. 55:7).The study compared a conventional farm that used recommended fertilizer and pesticide applications with an organic animal-based farm (where manure was applied) and an organic legume-based farm (that used a three-year rotation of hairy vetch/corn and rye/soybeans and wheat). The two organic systems received no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The research compared "First and foremost, we found that corn and soybean yields were the same across the three systems," said Pimentel, who noted that although organic corn yields were about one-third lower during the first four years of the study, over time the organic systems produced higher yields, especially under drought conditions in which organic corn and soy yields averaged 22% higher than conventional. The reason was that wind and water erosion degraded the soil on the conventional farm while the soil on the organic farms steadily improved in organic matter, moisture, microbial activity and other soil quality indicators. The fact that organic agriculture systems also absorb and retain significant amounts of carbon in the soil has implications for global warming as soil carbon in the organic systems increased by 15 to 28 percent, the equivalent of taking about 3,500 pounds of carbon dioxide per hectare out of the air.

To conclusively answer the original question Professor Ivette Perfecto and colleagues, at the University of Michigan's school of Natural Resources and Environment, analyzed published studies on yields from organic farming. They looked at 293 different examples. "Model estimates indicate that organic methods could produce enough food on a global per capita basis to sustain the current human population, and potentially an even larger population, without increasing the agricultural land base," they wrote in their July 2007  report, published in the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. Yields aside, not all aspects of these systems can be easily quantified regardless of their importance. As stated by the lead author in the Swiss Study "Costs like soil erosion, or pollution of ground water or climate change, these costs are not covered when you run comparisons between organic and conventional products. Society is paying these costs.” In the end, as these costs mount, yield is only one essential factor of any honest agricultural analysis. As fossil fuels deplete, and global warming changes the agricultural landscape, environmental sustainability must be a primary consideration for agricultural policy throughout the world. Organic is not only capable of feeding the world, it may have to.

Cookbooks in Our Cupboards How to get inspired to cook more vegetables by and for Stoney Acres Farm



  1. From Asparagus to Zucchini – The most perfect compilation for CSA cooking and also the most local. Produced by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition the cookbook takes you alphabetically through Wisconsin vegetables providing interesting historical background, basic preparation and storage information, and several wonderful recipes. The book’s introduction lays out ‘what is so special about eating locally’ and after zucchini provides a host of fantastic seasonal combinations perfect for every week’s box. My favorite recipe: Glazed carrots. I use it all the time, and though it is hard to go wrong with butter and maple syrup (substituted for honey), the mint is a special something.


  1. Local Flavors – Deborah Madison’s newest book which is centered on recipes that “tour” farmers markets across the US. A great book for basic cooking techniques for vegetables and sauces that can be used on a variety of dishes. Lots of great recipes for mid-summer through winter. This book does include rare vegetables and fruit which is particularly useful. At times includes ingredients that are harder to find.


  1. Farmer John’s Cookbook – Put out in association with Angelic Organics CSA near Beloit. This book is a good reference with listing by vegetables. Some of the ingredients are less common than those found in Asparagus-Zucchini, so they require planning but it is almost as good as a seasonal reference.


  1. Chez Panisse Vegetables - In this cookbook Alice Water’s presents an A-Z list of vegetables with rich, simple, and seasonal recipes. The only problem with this locally focused book is that her seasons take place in California and there are several recipes that draw on ingredients that are not grown or found locally in the Upper Midwest, like avocados.  Nevertheless, this book includes veggies that are not found in most other books like amaranth and chicory, and she provides beautiful, informative descriptions of vegetables and gives you creative ideas for entire meals. 


  1. How to Cook Everything – We are newly converted to Mark Bittman’s reference book, but honestly it offers a wonderful how-to guide to follow for cooking most dishes, including vegetables (arranged alphabetically). With over 2000 recipes it has been called the modern Joy of Cooking and has great ideas for simple soups, salads and stir fries and more creative dishes for all your vegetables.


  1. The Joy of Cooking – If this were cookbooks for the general kitchen and not just the CSA box this would be at the top of our list. We love this book for its general approaches, sauces, and ease of use. It contains a very good guide to cooking lots of vegetables. It does not contain references to more obscure vegetables and is often not seasonal but for basic “how to make great mashed potatoes” or how to incorporate vegetables into roasted meats this is the best book.


  1. The Midwest Gardner’s Cookbook – This book is a much more standard “how my grandmother cooks vegetables” type guide to vegetables that come from the Midwestern garden. It is almost perfectly in tune with our seasons and has some great staple recipes. Our favorite is Poor Man’s Caviar, which uses lots of eggplant, tomatoes and creates a wonderful spoonable or spreadable sweet dish. Some other recipes focus on basic dishes of mashed or buttered vegetables. There is some discussion of preservation here as well.


  1. We mentioned it before but this is a just a great, search by ingredient website. It is useful for all dishes, has ratings and reviews and additions offered by other folks who have used the recipes, and draws on a list of well known cooking magazines. And…. It is free.


  1. Ball Blue Book- The best guide for how to can and freeze extra produce. It has temperatures, techniques, basic recipes that you can adapt and a long to preservation that is particularly useful for reference, or beginners. This book includes some basic pickling techniques although we recommend a specific book or fermentation if you want to make fermented vegetables or fruits.


  1. Moosewood Cookbook, The Original- A classic cookbook focused on vegetarian fair. Filled with lots of recipes that are centered on staple vegetables. We especially love the soups and entrees and find many of the basic ideas adaptable to vegetables from throughout the season. Some of our favorites are their carrot soup, cornbread laden with vegetables, and polenta pie. The restaurant does offer some free recipes on their website -

This Farm Was Made for You and Me An Examination of How CSA Farms Can Create Community

This Farm Was Made for You and Me

An Examination of How CSA Farms Can Create Community

by and for Stoney Acres Farm


 “Community Supported Agriculture” is a powerful name for a business model, but it was never meant to be merely a business model. CSAs are meant to be part of a broader movement to participate in a deeper economy, to build and strengthen community around local food, and change the agricultural system be emphasizing democracy and sustainability. A tall order, and one will all sorts of challenges and practical limitations. This past winter, using Bill McKibben’s book, Deep Economy we have been reflecting on how, and how not, CSAs can create community.

                                                                                                            CSAs create community in the same way as any small local business. To begin with, your purchase, gives us the economic basis for being here among you. Shopping locally generally creates a concrete connection to real people around you whether it is a florist, a butcher or a farmer. Locally owned businesses make more of their own purchases locally, and give much more locally in dollars and volunteerism. As Bill McKibben says  “We learn once again what skills and gifts our neighbors possess, and they become valuable to us once again, literally valuable, people we can start to depend on for some of our food, our fuel, our capital, our entertainment.” For us this has meant finding neighbors with boars and finding CSA members who work at printing shops. It is not just about a social network but about being invested in the same community and consciously supporting each other to improve it. CSA farms are not producing an anonymous commodity for international markets or contracting with agribusiness firms seeking to dominate the food economy.  In this model we not only want to produce food, we want to produce food for you.

 Beyond the economic basis of local food is the social setting it creates. McKibben discusses Sociological research in which consumers at farmers markets have ten times the conversations they would at supermarkets, “This simple change in economic life-where you shop- produces an enormous change in your social life. You go from being a mere consumer to being a participant, taking about things you like and dislike, expanding your sense of who is in your community and how it all fits together.”

In his reflection on eating locally for an entire year Mckibben writes, “Eating this way has come at a cost. Not in health or in money (if anything, I’ve spent less than usual, since I haven’t bought a speck of processed food) but in time I’ve had to think about every meal, instead of wandering through the world on autopilot, ingesting random calories…But the payoff for that cost has been immense, a web of connections I’d never known about. The geography of the valley now means something much more real to me.” Eating through a CSA connects you literally to where your food comes from.


In Laura B. Delind’s Journal “Considerably More Than Vegetables, Considerably Less Than Community”, she argues that “the ‘community’ in community supported agriculture exists more as a metaphor than as a fact.” Delind says that because CSAs are most often small businesses first, “However dedicated (the farmer) may be to ecological practices and social responsibility, making a comfortable and dependable living is an equally critical concern.” These hard managerial decisions led to paradoxical behavior: one farmer put his CSA up for sale. Delind asked “can a community in any traditional sense… ever be sold?” Additionally trade magazines have advised CSA farmers on how to “price community.”  This is not our hope for our farm, but a reality to be conscious of. We purposely do not price community (in the form of farm events, potlucks etc).

Community at Stoney Acres Farm

Despite these limitations, which we grapple with constantly, we feel like, as time goes on our CSA has transcended a mere market relationship. From year to year, we know more people and have a deeper connection.

We have been told by several families that their children eat their vegetables because they come from their farmers even if they are resistant to the vegetables themselves. We also know that during farm visits CSA members learn about the ecological community – they meet animals that their family later purchase to eat, they see bugs, pull weeds, etc. and understand at some level the life and work that goes into their food. This is more than most of us can say about anything we buy or eat.

Workershares create unique relationships and allow us understand commonalities with people with whom we have fundamental political or religious disagreements and also strengthen our relationships with local friends and family. This closeness or in essence community forces us, and them we think, to see our individuality and complexities.  Farm events bring together people and bumper stickers who do not always find themselves in the same places because of shared beliefs around food, eating and the actual space of the farm. These events also extend and connect our local friends, family, and neighbors with CSA members and vice versa.  We’ve exchanged services, bartered with, helped people move, and partied with folks we would have otherwise never met. We have reconnected with so many people through the CSA and made great new friends to trick’o treat with, brew wine together  or sample homemade beer.

In the spirit of community we hope that you all are able to visit us this season on the farm. We have Wednesday Night potlucks, which everyone is invited and beside farm events welcome visits to explore the farm, walk in our woods, or just a visit for visiting sake. We are so excited to begin the season together. Thank you for supporting our agriculture. You are our reason for being here.