After all these years of CSA newsletters mostly comprised of Jeff and I talking about the weather, we have decided that it is high time we switch gears and put our members in the spotlight.
To that end, our good friend and CSA member Alissa Moore will be conducting brief interviews with some of you - our wonderful Three Sister’s CSA members - for our Saturday newsletters.
I am personally looking forward to learning more about the community we serve and am hopeful that cooking tips and resources will emerge from this sharing that will benefit all our membership.
At one members request, Jeff and I will also be featured in interviews. So to kick things off.....
OK, Let’s get some basic stuff out of the way first…
How long have you been farming?
I have been farming since 2008. This is my twelve season.
And how did you get your start?
Through Americorps, I got a community gardener position in Milwaukee and that got me into growing food. Then I continued to do that with different organizationss for several years, and then I had an internship in New York state on a farm as an educator, and I realized I wanted to get back to the countryside. That led me into farming instead of being a farm-based educator or garden educator.
How long have you and Jeff been operating Three Sisters Farm?
What is your favorite vegetable to grow?
Garlic. One thing I really like about it is that we save the seed from year to year, so I like to think that the garlic has a memory of our farm. More so than the other crops we grow that we buy seed for every year. Garlic marks the season for me – first thing that comes up in the spring and last thing we plant in the fall. So it inaugurates the season and brings it to a close. And it's delicious.
What is your favorite vegetable to eat?
That's a tough one. It's whatever is coming in for the first time in that moment. Whatever is available for the first time that season. If its' the first cherry tomatoes it's cherry tomatoes. If it's the first head lettuce its' head lettuce, if it's the first radishes it's radishes. But then after five weeks of radishes...they aren’t my favorite anymore. I never get tired of carrots, potatoes, onions and garlic.
If you were a CSA vegetable, which one would you be and why?
I think it would probably be garlic. Because I'm spicy and I feel like there's something about the fact that garlic is also a medicine. I think of myself as a healer. Garlic is a healer, I'm a healer.
What is your favorite thing about being a CSA farmer?
I really love being able to work with the seasons. I think of myself as an artist and each week the harvest is like an installation – like an art instillation. And I think “what better medium to work with than living plants and the elements?” And then trying to work with all the factors to bring this final picture [of the CSA box] to people.
What is your inspiration to get up and do the sometimes difficult work of farming each day?
It's definitely a beautiful box of vegetables, and bringing that box to someone who can appreciate it.
What is your favorite farming tool and why?
I'm pretty sure it's the wheel hoe. There's something about all the different techniques one can use a wheel hoe for that I really enjoy. Some people like to push it going forward but I like to pull it because I erase my footsteps And I like to think about that, erasing my footsteps. But more practically, you don't have to bend over to use it, you can be upright. If you're using the wheel hoe correctly you can really keep your spine in the field of gravity. You are approaching things straight on. It's kind of like a meditation because if I get overwhelmed by the amount of weeding there is to do and I try and move faster, then I work way faster than I should and then I’m leaning forward or leaning back - I’m out of alignment. When I'm using it I always think about how it seems like you get more done if you put more effort into something, but actually you get more done in the long run if you approach it more mindfully. It looks like you are working slower but you're somehow actually getting more done over time.
What are you excited for in the 2019 season?
I'm really excited about learning more about native plants, because that is a part of the new property that we are managing with the meadow installation. I'm trying to learn more about native plants and propagate them in our greenhouse so we can plant an understory in the orchard we planted this spring. Native plants are like a whole new world, and it's really exciting to learn about them. And I think about how a lot of the foods we eat are not really native to here, and I think about incorporating those natives back into what we're growing – I think it will enhance the terrior and I’m also excited about what it will do for the insects.
And I’m excited about Jeff's cultivating tractor, and I think it works. He tried it on the onions the other day. Because as much as I love the wheel hoe, I don't know about wheel hoeing 20 acres. (The cultivating tractor, if working properly, means less hand weeding for Jeff and Kelly.)
Is it true that before you were a couple, Jeff was your boss at another farm?
That is true...that is true...
Sounds like there’s a story there…?
Um...yeah well, I met Jeff at Outpost and he was managing Wellspring – a not for profit Organic farm - and he was looking for interns for that coming season. I had just graduated college, and I was doing an internship over the winter but my summer was open. S0 I set up an internship – I was so excited to learn about an organic farm located so close to where I grew up. Within days of being there I knew I liked this guy.
I think it took until August until anybody made a move; I didn't get there until June. Jeff put his hands on my feet – that was his first move. It was after a field day at Angelic Organics farm, we were the only two of the crew around that weekend. We went to Lake Michigan and sat on the beach and it was kind of clear that it wasn't a typical manager/intern relationship. I didn't care that he was my manager, but I guess he did. So we started dating in secret.
What is something many people don’t know about you, and might not guess from meeting you a few times?
That I was really in to cheerleading when I was younger.
If you weren’t a farmer, what career might you be doing right now?
I'd probably be an herbalist.
What, aside from farming, is bringing joy into your life these days?
Playing Beetles songs on the piano.
Any wrap-up sentiments or final words?
I hope that its's great season for everybody!! And they should try to come to the farm at least once in their tenure as a CSA member.
Jeff Schreiber has been farming organically for 10 years. In 2011 he started Three Sisters Community Farm with his wife, Kelly.