Willoway Farm: A Tale of One Garden

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By Jaqueline Fulcomer of Willoway Farm

What makes our CSA/Farm unique?

DSC00039Finding this gem of a property was a blessing in itself; one look at it, and we knew it would fit our style of farming. The farm sits on 8 acres of diverse terrain, allowing for several micro-climates and garden scenes. We completely refer to the main vegetable/flower growing space as a garden, even if it is a 1.5 acre space with a fantastic, gentle south facing slope. We create raised beds all carved out of 8 sections of land. We grow as you would in a garden, lots of companion planting and no mono-cropping. Unlike other produce farms and CSA’s, we rely on human power mostly, except the rototiller we use. We still do not even own a tractor. The garden is cultivated with hand hoes and shovels,  and tall grasses are cut with a scythe. Every plant is hand planted and hand watered in.

The CSA is kept small to 35 full shares, allowing us to harvest both the veggies, herbs and flowers the day it is delivered, which essentially gives the customer the opportunity to seize those nutrients from the veggies immediately – not days later. We also use reusable bushel baskets for the shares, which we like more then the waxed cardboard boxes. This year, we are slowly introducing plastic 5/8 picking bushel baskets, which not only are reusable but washable.

All the companion planting aids with deterring unwanted pests, minimizing diseases in plants and providing beneficial bug habitats, all for the sake of growing healthy food and flowers, yet providing spaces for our native and domestic pollinators. We also have about an acre of wild, woodsy land providing homes for native crops, foliage and flowers. Then we have a 1-2 acre hill with a 360 degree view of the surrounding Northern Milwaukee Branch wetlands. The 1-2 acres is filled with, so far, 75 apple trees farmer Dan grafted with heirloom apple scionwood each spring since 2007.  Because these trees are grafted to our preferred rootstock, it is an investment for years to come before the production of organic apples will be in full swing.  At the base of the apple trees, daffodil bulbs are nestled to keep the base of the apple tree roots looser and less quack grass, as well as providing cut flowers and attracting pollinators. The apple orchard, in most springs, gets a treatment of tree paste (clay, lime, manure) to prevent diseases and pest from creeping in through barks, tree cuts etc. Underway is several terraces inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka (One Straw Revolution) on the south side of the hill, to be more garden space and prairie flowers on the slope.

IMG_3923Another unique and key thing about our farm is the management of our soil.  After returning ingredients for a rich compost (garden waste and sheep, heifer and poultry manures, along with herbal preps for enhancing the compost), we have redistributed the compost made on the farm each year to the garden for the past 8 years. I can say now our garden soil is nearly a dream to plant in. The tilth has developed to be awesome, but it is not only the compost that allows this. Every year each garden bed is hand crafted using the simple human tools. First, in the prior fall, the compost is spread by wheelbarrow and shovel and tilled in for incorporating the compost and any other added amendments -perhaps nettle leaves, comfrey, egg shells. In spring, each garden bed is broadforked. The broadfork is a handtool widely used in Europe and now is getting its use in the United States, ever since Elliot Coleman showed it in his garden book (1989 The New Organic Grower).  The broad fork allows the farmer to aerate the deeper soil (imitating perennial plants in that sense), whereas a tiller can compact the soil at a shallower point. When using the broadfork, you are allowing the compost to drift deeper into the soil  and create a deeper tilth for your plants roots. After we broadfork, it is shaped by hand using a rake into a delightful garden bed beckoning to be planted.

We consider ourselves stewards of this little piece of earth we live on. From the beginning, to keep diversification abreast and incorporate permaculture strategies, we planted hazelnut bushes and elderberry bushes upon designing the garden back in spring 2007.  So, on our little 8 acres for perennials, we have native edibles such as elderberries, ramps, mulberries and jerusalem artichokes, yet we have domestic apples, strawberries, asparagus and sorrel.  We yearly grow over 100 varieties of heirloom vegetables, as well as the native flowers (i.e. trilliums), perennials, annuals, and biennials.  Keeping the farm diversified keeps the land healthy and provides habitats for all sorts of critters, such as bats, who eat lots and lots of mosquitoes. We have counted over 30 bats coming out of one of our buildings rooftops!

Jacqueline in Cedarburg

Jacqueline in Cedarburg

You can find is a bluebird house in 6 garden sections (not just on the edge of the garden), because we welcome birds to help keep balance of the insects. We practice reduce and reuse on farm. We aim to reduce compaction and our  waste imprint; to tread light on the earth. We use the rototiller and hand tools as a means to minimize compaction on the soil and also to keep gardening simple. We reuse timbers from barns that are being torn down. Our wash/pack produce building is a timber frame made by Farmer Dan, and even our new hoop house end walls are made with reclaimed barn timbers. We admire the buildings of the settlers, as you cannot find timbers aged and cured at those sizes locally in Wisconsin without sourcing the buildings of the settlers who got first picks on timber when they came to Wisconsin.

We have two side projects on our farm.   I create wedding and event flower arrangements, under the name Waggle Dance Flowers. The uniqueness of the flowers, besides just the variety, is that we refuse to use non- sustainable hardware (i.e. toxic green foam).  Farmer Dan’s side project from the get go is a 9-hole disc golf seasonal course, which adds much fun and play to a full-on, working small farm.

In a nutshell, we are two people aiming to be stewards of the land entrusted to us, growing food and flowers pleasing to the touch, nose and taste buds, yet mindfully tending to the needs of our land. We house sheep, poultry and honeybees, adding to the atmosphere of the farm.  We farm, keeping the esthetics of the land in mind. Nothing on the farm is done without a plan – we definitely have a long term vision. This is what we do, and all we do, and it will be our life’s work. Our farm is in its 8th season, providing produce, egg and flowers shares. Our little 8 acres is the home of woods, pasture, some prairie flower spaces, a garden, orchard, animal station and home for a family of four. We hope to be ever enhancing the land and embracing the nature we share it with. We welcome you to visit our website, http://willowayfarm.net/, or like and visit our facebook pages ( both Willoway Farm and Waggle Dance Flowers).  And, if you know a worker, we are registered with WWOOF this year –send ‘em our way!

Peace ~ Jacqueline

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