Category Archives: Local Food

Garlic

Having spent much of late July and most of August harvesting, curing and cleaning garlic, I am happy to report that the 2016 garlic crop is now ready and available for sale!

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German Red Hardneck garlic

I raise three different varieties: German Red, Russian and Inchelium Red garlic.  The German Red and the Russian are both hard necked rocambole varieties (A. sativum var. ophioscorodon) and the Inchelium Red is a soft necked artichoke variety (A. sativum var. sativum).  The German Red is the variety I raise in the largest quantities.  The Inchelium Red is the only softneck and I generally braid some of it.

German Red Hardneck Garlic

German Red Hardneck Garlic

Inchelium Red Softneck Garlic

Inchelium Red Softneck Garlic

My garlic is planted in mid October, mulched heavily with dried leaves and wood shavings and left for the winter.   It begins to emerge just as the soil begins to warm in the spring at about the same time as the crocuses.  The hard necked varieties develop a scape or flower stalk which I remove when they have developed sufficiently to create a loop – if I snap them off any sooner, the scape will often continue to grow and I would rather have that energy go into bulb development.  The scapes are edible.  I use them similarly to green onions.  They are great in soups and sautés.  We are quite distant from major population centers, so it has been difficult to develop a market for the large number of scapes that are produced here, but in some places scapes are highly sought after.  Besides using them our own cooking, I have discovered that my sheep enjoy them as well.

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German Red garlic

Weeding is critical and can have a major impact on the size of the bulbs, as can soil fertility.  I leave the mulch in place in the spring and this helps to reduce the amount of weeding required.

In mid to late summer depending on the growing conditions, the leaves of the garlic plants begin to die back, starting with the lowest leaves first.  When about 3 of the leaves have died back on each variety, I begin to dig a few bulbs to see if that variety is ready to harvest.  The soft necked garlic is always the first to be harvested.  I try to harvest when the soil is dry because this makes curing and cleaning much easier, but this isn’t always an option in our temperate climate.

I tie the garlic in bunches of about 20 bulbs or so and hang the bunches in our barn to cure for a couple weeks.  Then I bring the bunches back down and prepare them for sale.  The Inchelium Red is sorted by size and condition before the tops are trimmed in order to select the ones I will use for braiding.  The rest are trimmed (roots and tops) as soon as I bring down the bunches.

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Garlic hanging to cure

Since reading GROWING GREAT GARLIC by Ron Engeland, I have been using a simple tool described in the book for sorting the garlic by size.

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Simple tool for sorting garlic by size

It may seem ironic to put the very best quality garlic back into the ground, but by saving and planting the best garlic each year, I have continued to improve my crop year after year and have developed varieties that are perfectly suited to my growing conditions…and to receiving ribbons at the county fair 🙂

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Summer is sooo beautiful

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July 12, 2016 · 9:55 pm

Meeting with my Legislator

Back in mid March, I took a day away from the farm to join Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) in Madison for their Farm & Rural Lobby Day.  It was a great experience.  I carpooled with Linda and Cathy to Stevens Point and then we vanpooled with other WFU members from the central part of the state.  WFU scheduled meetings for us with our Senators and Representatives, in our case, Janet Bewley and Beth Meyers.  Policy staff at WFU had prepared really nice documents to share at these meetings on 4 priority topics: Supporting UWEX, Nonpartisan Redistricting, Rural Broadband and a Well Dispute Settlement Program proposal.  We also had the opportunity to bring up other topics of importance to us.  For Linda, Cathy and me, supporting UWEX was especially important and we each had examples of ways in which UWEX has been extremely valuable to us over the years.

We asked that our legislators let us know when they are in Price County so we could meet with them to continue the conversations.

Not long afterwards, I got a call from Beth Meyers’ staff person asking if she could come to tour my farm and learn about agriculture in Price County.  Of course I was thrilled to host her.  The day when Beth visited here, she also toured Linda and Gerry Ceylor’s Organic Valley dairy farm and had a listening session with a group of farmers in Catawba.

Just before Beth arrived here, a Channel 12 – Rhinelander van pulled in and Ben Meyer asked if he could tag along on the tour.  Turns out this meant with video camera in tow!  Good thing I didn’t have advance warning, I would have had time to get nervous.  Here is his take on my visit with Beth Meyers:  http://www.wjfw.com/storydetails/20160422174529

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Filed under Farm, Local Food, Natural world, Policy, Sustainability

What a Good Idea!

Communal Meat Lockers Could Help Scale Up Sustainable Meat

Once a prevalent adjunct to butcher shops, community meat storage spaces in upstate New York are supporting farmers and making meat more affordable.

Look no further than the local food movement to find history repeating itself. Food preservation, root cellars, seed saving, and other “old-fashioned” practices are being reinvigorated all over the country, proving that good ideas have lasting power.

Now the meat locker is making a comeback, thawing out after a long, deep freeze since its heyday in the 1940s. Continue reading

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Autumn Larch Farm LLC in the news

http://www.agriview.com/news/livestock/architect-farmer-builds-local-foods-connections/article_3f86cae2-2b85-584a-af0e-2991ea846b4f.html

purses hang on fence

Photo by Jane Fyksen

November 26, 2015 1:00 am  • 

PRENTICE, Wis. – Previously a commercial architect living in downtown Chicago, Jane Hansen moved with her husband, Chris Wallner, to Price County 15 years ago — to become a farmer.

She’s still building, but now she’s building connections in the local-foods arena. Though she stepped down as coordinator of the Wisconsin Local Food Network in April, she remains active and looks forward to the 10th-annual Wisconsin Local Food Summit, to be held Jan. 14-15, 2016, at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan Falls. She helped plan the first nine summits.

“We are excited that Jane will be assisting us in bringing local food to our state convention in January,” said Lloyd of Wisconsin Farmers Union’s Jan. 29-31 gathering at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in Appleton. “It is a priority for our members to directly support farmers and the local economy by buying local food for our meals together.”

Hansen raises sheep and poultry, and direct-markets artisan wool products and more. She named her farm Autumn Larch for swamp-loving Tamarack trees in the Larch family. The trees produce a second round of golden color in the fall after hardwoods have lost their leaves. The farm’s sheep are Coopworth, a breed from New Zealand that originated from mating Border Leicester and Romney.

“It’s a strong dual-purpose breed,” she said of high-quality wool and meat production.

The hardy breed fits her pasture-based management, which includes wintering outside with woods as windbreak. Although not certified organic, Hansen uses garlic to boost sheep immunity and stave off internal parasites. Year-round she feeds fresh-ground garlic in grain once a week, at the rate of one to two cloves per head per week. She deworms ewes by drenching with garlic juice. Each 150-pound ewe receives 5 cubic centimeters each of garlic juice and aloe juice with 20 cubic centimeters of water.

An avid learner and armchair researcher, Hansen uses an herbal “antibiotic” called artemesia annua — known as wormwood or sweet annie – to control liver fluke in her sheep.

“These are things I’m dabbling in,” she said. “It’s part of the buckshot I use to try to solve problems.”

Hansen sells lamb, tanned hides, fleeces, roving and yarn. A fiber artist herself, she knits and felts colorful wool handbags. Her ewes wear coats to protect their fleeces. The sheep sport names such as Hoglah, Tirzah and Micah.

Her laying flock of red hens supplies several customers with eggs. She also makes nine fragrances of soap and unscented “Not So Plain Jane” soap, which pokes fun at her name. Some of her herbal soap is wrapped in felted wool; no washcloth is necessary with the unique bath-and-shower product.

In addition to attending craft fairs, Hansen belongs to Countryside Artists’ Gallery in the Fred Smith house at the Wisconsin Concrete Park in Phillips. In 1948, Smith, at 62, started creating artwork that resulted in more than 230 embellished concrete figures in his yard. The concrete folk art is a tourist attraction, which is an outlet for Hansen’s products.

An avid market-vegetable grower, Hansen specializes in hardier produce such as salad greens, cabbage, onions and garlic. She extends her season with a hoop greenhouse. In October she planted about 1,700 cloves of garlic, some of which is braided. The cloves will be decorative in customers’ kitchens. Grocers also buy her garlic for resale.

One of many local-foods connections Hansen has forged is with the Phillips School District and Food Service Director Terra Gastman.

“I really enjoy working with Jane,” Gastman said of a farm-to-school partnership with Hansen. “She emails me each week and lets me know what she has available. We have made fresh squash for the kids several times this year. We have some saved to serve with our Thanksgiving lunch at school.

“The kids do notice when the produce is fresh. Fresh oven-roasted zucchini is a favorite. Jane’s fresh vegetables are a great addition to our lunch program.”

Vice-president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union’s Price and Taylor counties’ unit, Hansen is active in the farm organization’s local-foods promotions.

“Wisconsin is a leader in the country for work on developing a vibrant local and regional food system,” said Sarah Lloyd, Wisconsin Farmers Union special projects coordinator. “Jane Hansen has been an important leader in the network of farmers, organizations, agencies and consumers that are working on the issue.”

Visit AutumnLarchFarm.wordpress.com for more information on Hansen’s products. Visithttps://wilocalfood.wordpress.com/summit-2016 for more on the 2016 Local Food Summit. Visit www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com to learn about Wisconsin Farmers Union’s local-foods thrust and upcoming convention.

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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, Local Food, Research, Sustainability

Spring means lambing season

Our first lamb of 2015 was born 2 days ago.  And she is the first natural color lamb born on this farm!  And, she looks just like her papa.

Hoglah is such an attentive mother that she makes it hard to get any pictures.  Here is one taken inside of the pasture jug.

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Most of my attempts today resulted in this:

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Hoglah very deliberately placed herself between me and her little one.

But I did manage to catch a glimpse of the two together.  Mama enjoying the fresh green grass and some dandelion blossoms and her ewe lamb testing out her legs.

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New growth is popping out everywhere as seen here:

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American Plum (Prunus americana) Blossoms

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Tamarack (Larix laricina)

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Filed under Farm, Fiber Arts, Local Food, Natural world, Seasons, Sustainability

Autumn Larch Farm in the news!

http://www.thecountrytoday.com/farm/article_e48e8378-9ffb-11e4-95f0-1b864b8c63f9.html

Shear delight: Autumn Larch Farm produces wool, meat, garlic for growing markets

Posted: Monday, January 19, 2015 10:54 am

PRENTICE — At Autumn Larch Farm, keeping customers happy is a top priority. Owner Jane Hansen prefers working face-to-face with the people who buy the farm’s products, whether it is wool, meat or garden produce.

“Having that feedback is very important to me,” she said. “It makes it more fulfilling.”

Though she moves around her farm with the confidence usually formed from decades of experience, Hansen wasn’t always a farmer. She grew up in the suburbs of southeastern Wisconsin and practiced as an architect, designing commercial buildings from schools to shopping centers.

In 1999, she and her husband, Chris, decided they were ready for a change and bought a house with a barn near Prentice in southern Price County.

“We didn’t know we would be farmers,” Hansen said.

Hansen planted a garden and its success led to selling at farmers’ markets.

Although not organic, Hansen uses non-chemical means to control weeds and pests, and uses antibiotics and wormers when necessary for animal health. She added laying hens to the farm for eggs, then began raising meat chickens.

In 2009, she began buying feeder lambs to raise grassfed meat on the farm’s six acres of pasture. In 2012, she expanded her flock to include breeding stock.

Hansen learned to knit as a child and rediscovered the art while living with a Norwegian roommate in college.

“It’s a big deal in Norway,” Hansen said. “She turned me into a fiber snob.”

Autumn Larch is home to a small flock of Coopworth sheep. Developed by a team of scientists in New Zealand from Romney and Border Leicester sheep, the Coopworth is a medium-sized, dual-purpose breed used for both meat and wool. Coopworth wool is in the coarser range, making it suitable for outerwear. The breed can be white or natural colored. Most of Hansen’s ewes are white, but her current ram is natural colored.

“I’m hoping to breed more colored sheep but they keep coming out white,” she said.

Last year, Hansen added a California Variegated Mutant wether to her flock. CVMs produce a fine wool that is easy to spin, durable and with a beautiful luster.

In addition to providing another type of wool, the wether will keep Hansen’s ram and ewe lambs company when they are separated from the rest of the mature ewes.

Once the sheep are sheared, the raw wool goes to Blue Hills Fiber Mill in Bruce for processing into spun yarn or roving. Roving is wool that is carded and drawn into long, narrow bundles. It is used by spinners and other fiber artists.

Wool from lambs is combined, but wool from individual ewes and rams is kept separate. Hansen labels each skein and attaches a photo of the sheep it came from, allowing artists to request wool from a specific sheep.

In addition to her own knitting projects, Hansen combines her handmade soaps she also sells with wool to make felted soap.

“It’s like having a washcloth built right in,” she said.

Lambs not kept for breeding are sold for meat. Hansen said she’s discovered there is a demand for grassfed lamb in the younger generations.

She believes mutton, consumed in the mid-century when better meat was shipped to feed soldiers, gave lamb a bad reputation among that generation, but people are rediscovering lamb. Hansen said she and her husband enjoy leg of lamb, which Chris prepares with slow, indirect heat and smoke.

“It’s delicious,” she said. “There are never any leftovers.”

Autumn Larch Farm also markets sheep skins. The skins are tanned in Milwaukee to preserve them and used in motorcycle seat covers, neonatal units and people who are bedridden and suffering from skin problems.

Along with its wool and lamb, Autumn Larch Farm is a producer of garlic for the wholesale market. Hansen plants about 1,500 cloves of garlic in the fall. Two are a hardneck variety, German Red and Russian Red, and a third is a softneck type, Inchelium Red.

Softneck garlic is milder and the kind you’ll find in most grocery stores. Hardneck garlic has more complex flavors and is closer to wild garlic, but may not store as well.

Hansen said her personal favorite is the German Red.

“It’s fabulous,” she said. “It grows really, really well in this cold, wet climate.”

The sheep enjoy the garlic as well. Hansen mixes it in with their feed to boost their immunity and as a natural pest control.

Garlic emerges about the same time as crocus in the spring, which Hansen says lets her know spring is finally here.

Garlic can be susceptible to poor weather. Two years ago, the cold wet spring caused much of her garlic cloves to rot in the ground before they sprouted.

Marketing products from her farm, especially in an area as lightly populated as north central Wisconsin, has been a challenge. She often drives great distances to reach her customers at farmers markets and craft shows.

“It is a struggle to build a farmers’ market and a customer base,” she said.

Hansen said with her wool, she has worked to connect with fiber artists who are looking for quality, Wisconsin-produced wool. She attends craft shows and the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival to meet spinners and knitters.

She also plans to promote fiber arts this month by teaching a sock knitting class at the Yarn Barn in Phillips.

Hansen became involved in Price Direct, an effort to build markets for local foods in Price County in 2005. That led to her involvement in statewide efforts, including Buy Local Buy Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Local Food Network. She serves as the coordinator for the Wisconsin Local Food Summit, now in its ninth year. This year’s summit is Jan. 30-31 in Wisconsin Rapids.

Hansen said building a diverse farm has been rewarding.

Though in an area of Wisconsin with fewer farms, Hansen uses management-intensive grazing to make the most from the farm’s six acres of pasture. The majority of the farm’s acres are wet and wooded, not suitable for farming.

“I like making use of our land,” she said.

Hansen is also making use of her experience as an architect. Along with designing an addition to her home and building a chicken coop, Hansen said she uses her problem-solving skills every day.

“There’s always a project on a farm,” she said.

A diversified operation

A diversified operation

Jane Hansen of Price County has built Autumn Larch Farm into a very diversified operation. Along with wool and lamb meat, Hansen grows vegetables and garlic, makes soap, and has raised chickens for eggs and meat.

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