Recipe Column: A way of life supported by the community
When Brendan and Jenny Tuckey first laid eyes on their farmstead in Sugar Camp three years ago, they didn’t mind the long twisted grass and scraggly trees scattered throughout the 10 acres. When you have a vision, a well thought-out plan, and lots of determination, little things like back breaking labor are only a minor hindrance.
The couple’s dream was to create a farm that would encompass the CSA concept, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. And once they bought their property in 2009, they didn’t waste any time tilling up the soil, establishing long stretches of fencing and planting vegetable seeds.
“Lots of people told us we wouldn’t be able to make a living growing vegetables up here,” said Brendan. “But we knew we could with what we learned at other CSA farms.”
Brendan was raised in New Zealand, and came to America to work at a camp in Lake Geneva in 2004. There he met Jenny, who had grown up in Ripon, and was a lifeguard at the camp. The couple were soon smitten with each other, and it wasn’t long before they were engaged and then married. Today they have a four-month-old little boy named Emmett. But what bonded this family together was the dream of creating a farm where food could be grown without chemicals, and vegetables could be sold locally. To learn all they could about this way of life, they worked together at farms across the world before Emmett was born. This method of education is known as WWOOFing which stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, and includes farms in Canada, New Zealand, USA, Australia and England.
Once they felt comfortable they had enough knowledge and experience, the couple set out to buy their own piece of property. Jenny had spent a lot of her youth vacationing in the Minocqua area at her family’s cabin, and dreamed of purchasing property there. But once the couple saw the acreage in Sugar Camp, they knew they had found what they were looking for. And it didn’t take them long to dig in, and Ever Good Farm was born.
CSA is a social model that connects consumers to their food, the land and with those who tend the soil. Ever Good Farm has CSA membership box options where consumers can purchase either a classic box delivery or a half delivery. Participants pay up front, a set price for produce, and then throughout the spring, summer and autumn months, Jenny and Brendan harvest the crops and distribute them to their CSA members. They also sell their goods at three local farmer markets every week, including Eagle River, Minocqua and Rhinelander.
“We have wonderful CSA members,” said Jenny. “They are all very enthusiastic about getting our produce, and always share recipes or ways they are preparing the food they buy from us. That makes us feel really good.”
Brendan and Jenny have five acres they have planted out of their 10. They practice succession farming, meaning they plant throughout the summer months at intervals. This works especially well for such vegetables as radishes, lettuce and even beans. “We are known for our greens,” said Brendan.
They have a large greenhouse, and start many of their own plants from seeds in early spring, such as tomatoes and cucumbers. Their vegetable list is long and varied, and includes such produce as cabbage, beets, broccoli, celery, eggplant, peas, potatoes and garlic, to name a few. They also have many herbs growing in their beds.
Brendan has learned that a big part of the success of his enterprise is to take care of the soil and uses no chemicals.
“We had quite a problem with potato beetles this year in the beginning,” he said. “We picked a lot off by hand, but nature has a way of balancing things out, and now that problem seems to be going away.”
The couple does use horse manure from a local stable to keep their soil fertile and loamy. They also do lots of weeding by hand, and get help from interns that come and learn their methods, and volunteers who are paid in fresh grown produce.
The recipes included this week came from the Ever Good Farm newsletter Jenny and Brendan produce for their CSA members, which this year has grown to include close to 60 families. And they hope that number, like their beautiful rows of thriving vegetables, continues to grow.
“We really enjoy this type of lifestyle,” said Jenny. “It’s good for our members, good for the environment and especially good for us.”
Editor’s note: To learn more about Ever Good Farm, visit their website at evergoodfarm.com.
Wonderfully Easy Pasta with Kale
1/3 lb. penne or farfalle pasta
2-3 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb. chopped kale leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Bring 6-8 cups of water to boil; add pasta and cook until tender. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the onions and garlic, and cook until tender. Add the kale and sautè until wilted. Drain the pasta and combine it with the onions, garlic, and kale. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.
Fresh Broccoli Soup
11/2 lbs. broccoli
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup boiling water
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
Cut the tops of broccoli into florets; peel the stems and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the broccoli, onion, and garlic; sautè until the onion is slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the water, lemon juice, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the broccoli is very tender, about 10 minutes. Puree in a blender with the chicken stock. Return the puree to the saucepan, add the milk and nutmeg, and heat through but do not boil. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot or cold.