As Ryan mentioned, we first met when he came to our fall harvest day at Wellspring where we worked for several years before staring Three Sisters. We tried to get members to come out and help plant garlic before the festival and he and Monica were the only ones that showed up. If I remember correctly we just decided to call it off since there wasn't that much interest. Over the years Ryan and Monica have continued to support us in so many ways, from contributing to our first crowd-funding campaign to purchase a skid-loader, hosting the dropsite, providing us with endless snacks on delivery day and even offering up some spotted cow beer at our wedding. They are both so generous and we are glad to have them as part of the farm community.
ALISSA Please say a little bit about yourself: what you do for a living, what is the makeup of your family?
RYAN My wife Monica and I moved to Milwaukee in 2009 for my fellowship - I am a pediatric ER doc at Children’s Hospital. We moved here right after oldest was born in 2009. We lived here for three years, and we met Kelly and Jeff around that time. Now we have two more kids, our children are 10, 8 1/2 and 5. We joined our first CSA in 2009 with a late season share at Wellspring and have pretty consistently been shopping with them at either the Farmers’ Market or the CSA since then.
Monica was the biggest push for it - we are probably both hippies but she’s a bigger hippie. She does the majority of our cooking and shopping, and really values that piece and does a good job of making use of all the veggies.
What is your dropsite?
Our home is the Tosa dropsite. We have hyped up Kelly and Jeff and the CSA a lot, so a decent portion of the TOSA drop site are friends. It makes Thursday’s really fun - all our friends and acquaintances show up in our driveway.
How long have you been a member with Three Sisters CSA Community Farm?
Since the beginning. Our favorite story is that we have pictures from this potluck they had at Wellspring in fall of 2009, we went with our oldest who was 6 month old at the time. We have pictures of the three of us on a hay ride to go to the pumpkin patch and in the background Jeff is driving the tractor.
What strikes you about Jeff and Kelly?
They are ernest and genuine, and so bought into the farm and the food and the lifestyle, and everything that goes along with it. (Because of that) it’s hard to not also feel strongly about making good choices about what you are eating, where it’s coming from and who’s making it. It’s nice when we get to see them at the drop off to catch up with them. They are so cool and have such a great perspective on things.
In three words, how would you describe the experience of seasonal eating you have through your CSA share?
Delicious - there are certain vegetables we get, like peppers or Nancy lettuce or tomatoes, and when they come there are some that we can’t get enough of.
Resourceful - we’ve definitely made the shift that people talk about, going from, “What do I want to eat?” and then getting those ingredients to, “What do I have and what can I make out of these good ingredients we have?”
Community - it really is a community. We’ve been out to pick up stuff at their farm, we love being a part of their infrastructure and they are so grateful that we do it.
When other people ask you what it’s like to be a CSA member or why you do it, what do you usually say?
Biggest thing we rave about is to tell them, even if they’ve tried CSA before, is the U-Pick aspect. If you hate kohlrabi you don’t have to get it, if you know you're going to be fixing a particular meal you can choose the items. Even if people think they know CSA, this just works so well.
And they produce such amazing food. Monica talks about how attentive they are with what goes on with certain crops. For example, one year the newsletter tracked what phase of the moon things were planted in. They are so conscious with everything that they are doing - getting their soil tested, knowing what to do to make things come out as good as possible, and they are also doing it so lovingly.
What is your favorite CSA food item?
Oh that’s tough - we love Nancy the lettuce. We always get peas, asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms. There are so many things. I’m going to say the Nancy lettuce just because I’ve never had it anywhere else.
Is there a CSA food item that most confounds or stumps you when it comes to cooking or eating, or used to before you knew what to do with it?
We had a hard time with greens for a long time. We didn’t necessarily always use them the best or completely. Even chard etc. But now we saute them in sauces and dice them up and put them in with Indian food etc. The learning curve for a lot of the cooked greens was the highest because it took a bit more effort to plan. But now when we have those we say “Ok what to make that we can use this in?”
Do you have a “box unpacking ritual” each week?
No, but especially later in the summer it amounts to basically us popping it open and grabbing whatever it is we are really excited about - cherry tomatoes or peppers and taking bites out of things. Normally the box makes it inside but is quickly picked over.
What is your favorite thing about being a member of Three Sisters Community Farm?
I really like that we are a part of it - I feel like we are benefiting from the CSA because we get our food and I don’t even think about that part of my grocery budget because it’s paid months ago and we get all this amazing food directly to our house.
I love that we’ve known Kelly and Jeff for as long as (Milwaukee) has been our home. And we were able to see the farm come together and see them get married. I was able to donate my keg hardware for their wedding reception.
What about being a CSA member is most important to you?
Not to put words in Monica’s mouth but I think she would say that it’s knowing your farmers, knowing how your food is grown and what it’s made of. When it comes down to it, that's what's really different about this. We have insight into who cares for our food and how they grow it and how it’s done.
What’s the most delicious meal you have had recently?
At a restaurant: We went to Cafe Central about three weeks ago. And every single thing we had was delicious - risotto and a pork noodle bowl and a poke bowl and the kids got amazing burgers.
At home: Monica makes this really great pasta dish the kids love with mozzarella and basil and it’s perfect for fresh herbs.
What is your favorite place to have a meal?
I love La Merenda’s patio. My backyard is pretty great, which is a lot cheaper. But both of those places are pretty go-to. And if it’s sunny and/or above 60, chances are we’re eating outside.
What is one thing that is bringing joy into your life these days?
We had a really phenomenal father’s day, with the kids and I building things - we built a bookcase to put my son’s turtle cage on, we all baked monkey bread together, we all went out to dinner together and had a phenomenal meal. That was a highlight this week. And we’re going camping this week.
What is one thing that is giving you pause, or reason for concern?
I worry about the state of the world, vaccines and guns and climate. There seems to be a bunch of bonkers stuff in the world, and some of it more directly affects me (with my work.)
Kale or Chard?
Kale - because you can make kale chips in the oven and they are amazing.
Is there anything you would like to share about seasonal eating, local food, CSA membership or anything else related to these topics that you have never had the chance to say?
Our kids have grown up always being offered stuff (from the CSA) so even the stuff they didn’t like initially they have changed their minds, because they continued to see it, and now they will put in in their mouths. Generally we’ve had the good fortune of having kids with reasonably good taste. My 5-year old will eat all the kale if we’re not careful. My 8-year old loves brussels sprouts. Since the veggies are all out there and offered, they get tried. The kids get seasonal eating too. They say they are in the mood for something, we talk to them when we are picking the share. Like this last week, our daughter lobbied very hard to not get radishes, so we said “OK, we won’t get radishes.”
Please share a seasonal recipe with the group…
“Our go-to Summer Recipe is roasting everything we've got whenever we've got the oven heated up for something else. Kohlrabi sliced into fries, whole beets, carrots, kale, potatoes... pretty much everything!
We coat them in olive oil and sea salt or other coarse salt. We usually roast them at 425 for 15-20 minutes (beets and potatoes are closer to 45). Once they cool off enough, many go directly in my mouth, often with ranch. The remainder get mixed up with some fresh greens in a buddha bowl of sorts and topped with a fried egg. Most everything I eat is accompanied by lots of Cholula.”