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Hope Springs Eternal

by Laurel Blomquist |“There was no time to lose, no time to waste in rest or play. The life of the earth comes up with a rush in the springtime.” –Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy If there’s one thing that everyone can agree on right now, it’s this: we live in strange times. Most of…

Laying the Foundation for Local Food: How UW-Madison’s Seed to Kitchen Collaborative Supports & Informs Our Regional Foodshed, Part Two

by Dylan Bruce and Jenyne Loarca |  Why a decentralized seed system with context-relevant data is so important The process of selecting, breeding, and trialing a new vegetable variety is a substantial investment, often taking 8 -15 years before that variety is ready for release. Still, a plant breeder might not know how their variety…

Laying the Foundation for Local Food: How UW-Madison’s Seed to Kitchen Collaborative Supports and Informs our Regional Foodshed, Part One

By Dylan Bruce and Jenyne Loarca, Photos by Dylan Bruce | In the depths of winter, there’s a particular joy in flipping through a seed catalog, dreaming of next year’s gardens and fields, and sunny days outside. Deciding which crops, and which varieties, to grow are among the most critical decisions a farmer or gardener…

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

by Linda Halley and Ryan Heinen | Know your farmer, know your food! I was amazed, some years back, when I found that easy-to-remember slogan on the header of a USDA web page. The behemoth federal agency never seemed to even notice the kinds of farmers one can “know.” It made me, as a grower…

old oak tree

Resilient, Diversified Farming

by Laurel Blomquist | A few weeks ago, I attended the Organic Vegetable Production Conference. This conference is relatively new, but well-attended by the farming community because it’s strictly for growers. The theme of this year’s keynote was “Farm Resilience in the Face of Change.” While the casual observer may note that weather patterns have…

Deep Winter Inspiration About our Food System

By Linda Halley with Birke Baehr | Nearly a decade ago I ran across a TED talk that brightened my day like no other. Like most TED talks it was informative and well presented. What was unique was that the speaker was only 11 years old and he was talking about the food system. He was…

pollinator

An App to Study Crop Pollinators

by Katy Thostenson | On a warm, sunny day this past summer, I stood on an organic farm in southern Wisconsin in a patch of watermelon plants that were in full bloom. The research technicians and I were standing still as we observed insect activity on the blooms to document the abundance and diversity of…

Remembering that Gwenyn Hill was a Fifth Generation Farm

by Linda Halley | While Gwenyn Hill LLC as a business in its third year is an infant in the world of farming, the land that encompasses Gwenyn Hill comes with a history. For five generations the Williams family farmed here; clearing woods, picking rocks, grazing sheep, making hay and milking cows for their dairy…

Native forbs

Blending Conservation & Agriculture

By Linda Halley | Agriculture and conservation are often seen as two sides of the same coin of land and resource management. They seem to end up on opposite sides of the debate table when it comes to soil, water, land use, and wildlife. Here at Gwenyn Hill Farm we see the choice between production…

Flame weeding

Weed Control at Gwenyn Hill Farm

By Laurel Blomquist | Earlier this year, I wrote about Gwenyn Hill Farm’s organic management practices, relating to Gwenyn Hill Farm’s organic fertilization and pest management strategies. This time, I’d like to talk about how we deal with weeds.  What is a Weed? What exactly is a weed? A weed is a plant that is growing…

Summer Vegetables

Organic Plants for Nourishment

by Lexie Goldberg | Nourishment is a word that circles around my head and heart constantly. Each and every day, our conscious and subconscious thoughts and actions either nourish our bodies and minds, or deplete them. A huge aspect of nourishment and self-care is the food we choose to eat. Our food choices and our…

Attendees listen to Dr. Kumar

Cooking for Brain Health

by Susan Speidell | When was the last time you had an opportunity to take a cooking class that focused on brain health? As soon as I saw the invitation to attend a cooking class led by Dr. Rose Kumar, I knew it had my name all over it! Who doesn’t love a cooking class,…

CO potato beetle larvae

Pest Control at Gwenyn Hill Farm

by Laurel Blomquist | In my last journal entry, I explained how Gwenyn Hill Farm uses fertilizers. In this entry, I will explain how we control insect pests.  Integrated Pest Management One of the challenges of organic farming is pest control. At Gwenyn Hill Farm, as with other organic farms, our primary approach is through…

Healthy Garlic

Fertilizers at Gwenyn Hill Farm

By Laurel Blomquist | On May 28, 2019, Gwenyn Hill Farm was visited by an inspector from MOSA, or Midwest Organic Services Association. Annually, we are carefully evaluated by our inspector for organic certification. The inspector checks out the fields as well as the areas where we wash and pack our produce before selling it….

Straw bales in the field

Plan “B”

By Linda Halley | Today, a June Sunday morning, the rain feels like a refreshing drink of water–thirst-quenching and reviving. But, last month’s rain was like the deep end of the pool, requiring a constant paddling to keep head above water. It was too much of a good thing. Rainfall totals, while above normal, were…

Spitzenburg Apple

Gwenyn Hill’s Heirloom Apples: Worth the Wait

by Kaylee Richards | As you drive past our curious laying hens and happily grazing cattle along Bryn Drive, you may notice a towering fence set on a hillside, south of the road. It seems out of place, protecting what looks like nothing. I assure you, however, that this fence is protecting seedlings of history….

Monarch caterpillar

Monarch Butterflies & Other Pollinators

By Laurel Blomquist and Kelly Krause Part One: Planting Milkweed & Pollinator Habitat By Laurel Blomquist | Last fall, we were fortunate that our neighbor, Jill from Tall Pines Conservancy, reached out to us with a treasure trove of mature milkweed pods. We overwintered them in our greenhouse, and in the spring, Ryan burned off…

Team members inoculating mushroom logs.

Woods, More Than Just a Shady Place

By Linda Halley | For the past couple of generations, woodlots have been a neglected part of most Wisconsin farms. Woodlots were once a valuable farm resource, used as shady summer pasture and a source for heating fuel and building materials. Farmers cleared the richest land for crops and open pastures but often left trees…

Baby chick arrive by mail

Why the Chickens Crossed Bryn Drive

By Ryan Heinen | With the warmer spring weather we moved our young flock of 115 laying hens from the brooding pen in the machine shed to their permanent home in the lower level of the granary. The new coop includes multiple roosting bars, nest boxes and lots of room. It has access to a…

Collecting maple sap

Maple Water

By Linda Halley | Gwenyn Hill Farm is blessed with maples; mostly red, some sugar, and an occasional silver maple. Ryan Heinen, Gwenyn Hill’s Land and Livestock Manager, and I put out a few taps this past week, We located them in easy-to-reach places along the road and in my yard. Sap runs best when…

Flowers germinating

The Scent of Spring

By Linda Halley | It’s going to happen any day now. You’re going to go outside and smell spring. It smells like life itself, awakening after a long slumber. Truly, it is. Microscopic life in the soil is stirring. The biology of organisms eating, digesting, excreting and repeating is the scent of spring. Breathe it in….

MOSES Keynote Panel

Renewing the Passion for Farming

By Laurel Blomquist, Head Gardener | Last October, many CSA members lamented the end of the growing season and the long pause before we start selling vegetables again, which is usually around mid-June. They were genuinely sad that they had to go back to the grocery store for produce once again. I, on the other hand,…

Jackrabbit

Following Nature’s Example

by Ryan Heinen, Land and Livestock Manager | It’s February in Wisconsin and more snow is predicted in the forecast. Lots of conventional farms have their livestock closed up in the barn. But here on Gwenyn Hill Farm the cattle are still out on the pastures, breathing the crisp fresh air and enjoying ample room to…

Soil Bore

Opportunities and Optimism at the University of Wisconsin

by Erin Silva | The broad negative impacts of the way in which we produce food are becoming increasingly evident. Regularly we see news headlines reporting on pollinator decline, contamination of our ground and surface waters, and the negative health impacts of the American diet. Further, the people and communities that are producing our food are…

Seed Mill

Who Gets Kissed? and Other Corny Seed Varieties

by Linda Halley | On the heels of Christmas catalogs come the seed catalogs. Farmers and gardeners alike love to pour over the colorful pages searching for old favorites and promising new varieties. But behind what might seem like a pleasant, winter wish-book is actually big business controlling what gets planted in 10,000 acre farms and backyard gardens. The…

Beehive Box Pollination - Gwenyn Hill Farm - Wisconsin

Links of Interest

by Linda Halley | It was nearly a year ago when Gwenyn Hill posted its first blog. It felt a little like speaking up into the night sky. How far would the words travel? Would anyone hear (or read) them? Nevertheless, we posted, and committed to continue posting regularly. Some posts are of the mundane variety,…

Draft horses pull a forecart.

Real Horse Power

by Ryan Heinen, Land and Livestock Manager | The last time a team of draft horses worked this land was 1958. That’s the year that the Williams family built the new dairy barn. Lloyd Williams told me that this new barn did not include stalls for horses, and so the team was sold. My grandfather had…

2019 Seed Catalogs

Winter Plans

by Laurel Blomquist, Head Gardener | People often ask me, “Do you work over the winter? What do you do?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” While farmers in more temperate parts of the country may be able to squeeze in a few more crops, I cherish this time of year to pause, reflect on the…

Linda Halley and Laurel Blomquist - Gwenyn Hill Farm in Wisconsin

Giving Thanks

By Laurel Blomquist, Head Gardener | As 2018 draws to a close, and the Thanksgiving holiday grows near, I pause to reflect on what we accomplished this first season at Gwenyn Hill Farm. It’s hard to believe that just nine months ago, the greenhouse didn’t have a water supply, the packing shed didn’t have a cooler,…

Nurse cow

Who’s Milking the Dairy Cows?

by Ryan Heinen | In America’s Dairyland and across the country, the sight of milk cows grazing in pasture has become uncommon. The exception is certified organic dairy farms, where grazing must provide at least 30% of a cow’s feed during the grazing season. This summer you may have noticed the small herd of milk cows…

Barn restoration

A Barn Is Reborn

by Linda Halley, General Manager | For eighteen months, a shady hillside along Bryn Drive has been bare. A lone silo remains, a testament to the fact that a dairy barn once stood there. In the next few weeks the barn will rise again, thanks to a couple of unassuming brothers, Tad and Craig Van Valin….

Gwenyn Hill's 2018 seasonal crew.

Hasta la Vista, “Until We See You Again”

by Linda Halley | We bought the plane tickets last night. Now it is real. The Zunigas are leaving by the end of the month, which means our seasonal crew will be reduced by more than half. Even though the fall has been terribly wet and many of our end-of-season tasks have been delayed, the Zunigas…

White Salad Turnips

How I Would Use This Week’s Share, Part II

by Laurel Blomquist, Head Gardener | Fall is officially in full swing, and the sheer variety of vegetables may have some of you scratching your heads. This post was so popular during the summer that I thought I would do it again for fall. The first thing I would do is check to see which vegetables…

Cows clearing brush

Our Ecological Restoration Herd

by Ryan Heinen, Land and Livestock Manager | As I write this, it’s a beautiful cool and sunny fall morning on Gwenyn Hill Farm. It’s my favorite time of year. I was out in the pastures rotating the beef cattle herd to a new paddock. I move them every day, and today I again noticed the…

Mise en place

The Culinary Connection

by Laurel Blomquist, Head Gardener | A lot of people ask me how I got into farming. It’s not exactly a glamorous profession. I was certainly not encouraged to pursue it by my grandparents, who operated a farm while I was growing up. In 2009, I was in my second year of culinary school  at Madison…

French Orange melon

Flavor Rules

by Linda Halley, General Manager | This past week Gwenyn Hill Farm hosted the Kettle Moraine Garden Club. There’s so much to say about what we do here and why. I have to narrow my messaging so we don’t feel like we are in a graduate-level lecture with a test at the end. I like to…

Rudbeckia

Strength in Diversity

by Linda Halley, General Manager | When the heavens opened up on August 16 and kept it up until September 3rd, farmers knew the season had taken a turn. Half of the summer’s precipitation fell the second half of August, much of it coming fast and furiously. Equally bad were the heavy, stagnant air and cloud…

Cattle eating pasture on healthy soils.

Using Livestock to Make Healthy Soils

by Ryan Heinen, Land & Livestock Manager | If you have driven by the farm recently you may have noticed a small herd of cows grazing near the old dairy barn. Over the next months and into 2019 we will be in the process of building livestock flocks and herds of sheep and cattle. Their job…

Gwenyn Hill tote bag

How I Would Use This Week’s Share

by Farmer Laurel | At the start of the CSA season, we gave each of our members a Gwenyn Hill tote bag to pack their shares in. Members quickly came to realize that this bag is simply not big enough to pack all of the goodies that we offer each week. We have supplemental bags to…

Tryouts… Criteria for a Lonely Vegetable

By Sarah Mayer | Benji digs.  I pull and select, with yeas and nays from the peanut gallery. Jaci designs a big, beautiful bunch.  And we repeat. Now, what is it that gives the single carrot the right of passage to the almighty bunch? We all seem to agree that a carrot should be, for the…

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