Our Farm's Philosophy
We are a small-scale, diversified CSA (community supported agriculture) farm that specializes in wedding flowers, CSA, and unique varieties of local fruit. Our farm uses organic practices and permaculture design principles to grow over 60 different vegetable and herb species, representing over 200 varieties. We also grow 30 different herbs a couple dozen types of fruits including currants, seaberry, saskatoons, honeyberry, hardy kiwi, aronia alongside our community of apples, pears, raspberries, plums, and apricots we grow for our CSA and local markets. We do a bit of wholesale production with fruit, raise honeybees, host events and delegations locally and globally have participated in farmer to farmer gatherings in Nicaragua, Senegal, Zambia, Ethiopia and Argentina.
Because we feel its important to farm not only organically, but sustainably, we do almost all of our work by hand and steward the soil, the land, on a human powered scale, built on relationship, respect and trust. In 3 – 5 years it is our goal to grow our direct market and wholesale outlets for fruit and add a farm stay option for people to relax, enjoy great food in a beautiful setting.
We look forward to growing for you this season and beyond!
How you grow it is what you get
We feel that it's important for eaters to choose their food-growers not only on the basis of what they offer and in what quantity, but also with regard to how they view what they're doing. Farmers have a particular set of roles they fulfill, both in the way they mediate the physical processes involving land and energy that produce food, and within the economic system which governs how that food is distributed to human beings.
At our farm, we are dedicated to growing food sustainably and building community. We believe that how you do it is what you get and the importance of taking small steps toward big impact. This philosophy drives what we do and plays out in our sustainability practices on our farm.
How we do it. Diversity, ecology, and beauty define our farm. In addition to composting and cover-cropping to vitalize our soils, we have sought to reduce our ecologic-footprint by integrating agroforestry practices such as forest gardens, alleycropping, field borders, and windbreaks to further build soil fertility and provide habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects. We manage 25 acres which were restored to native prairie in 2004; each Spring on Earth Day we have a class of Reedsburg High School students out to help manage invasive species and we invite our CSA members, farm friends to help with fruit tree planting. Part of stewarding the land is teaching the next round of stewards. We've seeded 3 acres of field borders with over 43 species of native plants to attract pollinators and recently set up bee hives. The remaining acreage consists of 11 acres of woodland wherein we've planted and wildcrafted ginseng and leeks; all of which we harvest at the appropriate season for our CSA members; a handful of acres of unmanaged pasture and ravine (future plans for integrating meat goats to support vegetation management) and a 1 acre footprint dedicated to our farm house, packshed/cold storage and an old yet sturdy barn.
Growing Food Sustainably: As a small-scale diversified fruit and vegetable farm, we see our role as ecological stewards and collaborators in building resilient, regenerative food systems in our backyards and sharing the harvest of edibles and ideas with the rest of the world. Quality, biodiversity and beauty define our farm. From seed to table, flower to vase and root to fruit all of our products and services are grown and tended to with love and care.
As a very small CSA, most of our work is done by hand, save for the occasional employment of a small power cultivator. Nevertheless, last year in our members' 20 share bags they received over 200 lbs of produce. That represents 28,580 calories grown on just under 7,000 square feet of land. Translated into input/output ratios (fossil fuel cals: food cals) are therefore in the 1:9 for vegetables taking into account what we canned and traded. When fruit and other perennials are added (which used no fossil fuels) the number is 1:14, or about 140 times more efficient than industrial agriculture.
Building community: We consider farming to be a community effort. We have hosted workshops, tours, and farmer to farmer gatherings on our farm in Wisconsin, and abroad to volunteer and share techniques with farmers throughout the world. By engaging, educating, and involving our fellow farmers, CSA members, friends, family and customers in helping grow food and develop new products we can build food security and enhance the well-being of our communities. As a result, we're able to connect farmers and eaters to where and how their food and fruit is grown and are working on developing a farm stay business to add value to our CSA and fruit products.
Small steps toward big impact. Another part is reducing our energy footprint. We take great care to track energy inputs on our farm year by year. We can typically provide a 20-week CSA on less than a pint of gasoline consumed on-farm, with a consequent energy-turnaround ratio of about 10 to 13 food-calories of output for each calorie of non-renewable fuel used. We capture rainwater from our barn and farmhouse roof, store it in a bulk tank, and gravity feed it to irrigate our orchard, rather than lift water from 150 feet below ground and pressurize it. In 2013, we began harvesting sunlight not just through plant leaves but with a photo-voltaic array which produces roughly five kilowatts at full sunshine. On a yearly basis, it should make our farm a net-producer for the energy-grid.
As ever, we and our soil thank you for your dedicated support of small-scale, eco-friendly, hand agriculture and for being part of our farm.
A dairy operation when it was abandoned in the mid-1940's, Hilltop's house and outbuildings sat unused while the land was farmed by nearby residents until 1972, when the parcel was purchased by Donald and Anne McClure of Winnetka, Illinois. The early-1900's house was upgraded with electricity and running water, and restored to a circa 1920's rural residence during the following decade. More History.
Hilltop's primary soil types – the basis of our livelihood – is La Farge and Valton silt loam series. You can view and download a copy of our soil map.