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Tag: organic farming

Lunchtime for the Herd

by Charlie Tennessen | Serving lunch to ninety dairy cows is no simple undertaking.  Every day, rain or shine, Gwenyn Hill Farm’s Land & Livestock Manager Ryan Heinen loads up about two tons of forage onto a wagon and takes it out to the pasture where the herd eagerly waits for their meal. The feed...

Wheat with Flavor

By Linda Halley | There was a time when wheat was “king” in Wisconsin, and our humble state produced more wheat than any other. A weekend road trip revealed that wheat is not just a minor crop here in the state, it is nearly nonexistent. But from 1840 – 1860 every farmer grew wheat. It...

Till the Cows Come Home

by Linda Halley | Origin: A longstanding colloquial expression found in print as early as 1593. Exact origin unknown. Meaning: A long, but indefinite time. Explanation: Cows are notoriously languid creatures and make their way home at their own unhurried pace. Milestone: After 30 years, the cows came home to Gwenyn Hill. There stands an...

The Red Devons at Gwenyn Hill

by Linda Halley and Ryan Heinen | The Red Devon calves are arriving at Gwenyn Hill Farm.  They are a sturdy 70 pounds at birth, ready, within minutes, to test out their legs and look for their first milk.  They are born on pasture and won’t get familiar with the inside of a barn as...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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....

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

First Farmers Market

By Laurel Blomquist | On Saturday, June 23rd, Gwenyn Hill Farm made our debut at the Brookfield Farmers Market. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The day started out cool and breezy, in the low 60s. As the morning went on, it topped off in the mid-70s. This was perfect for casual strolls through...

Roots to Fruit Community Education Conference

By Laurel Blomquist | Last Saturday, we were invited to exhibit at the Prairie Hill Waldorf School’s 6th annual parent conference. This year’s conference theme was Parenting and Education Toward Goodness, Beauty, and Truth. When we heard one of the breakout sessions was titled “Creating Your Family Culture” we knew it would be a good...

MOSES Organic Farming Conference

By Laurel Blomquist | Last week the Gwenyn Hill Farm team made the trek to La Crosse to attend North America’s largest gathering of organic farmers and professionals, the highlight of every farming year. It was a chance to brush up on farming knowledge and reconnect with some 3000 farmer friends and business partners of...

Praise the Plunge

By Linda Halley | When the mercury plunges to subzero our first reaction may be to bundle up, hunker down and pray for a swift end to intolerable temperatures. The last week of 2017 and the first week of 2018 tried our patience with temps rarely climbing to the teens and dipping to double digits...

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