|Farmer Interview - March 2010|
Jenny & Bob Borchardt, owners of Harvest Moon Farms, are doing their part to conserve the heritage of our food by focusing on supplying Chicago with rare varieties of delicious, organic produce.
Harvest Moon Farms is located in the Driftless Region of Southwest Wisconsin near Viroqua. Jenny & Bob Borchardt’s 20 acre Certified Organic Farm is just in its second full year of production. They grow over 60 different kinds of produce, specializing in heirloom and ARK varieties. Heirloom varieties come from seeds that have been passed down for at least 50 years and are grown in order to maintain genetic diversity in our food system. ARK varieties are identified by Slow Food International as endangered food species. By focusing on growing these endangered items hopefully they will continue to thrive for future generations. The incredibly fertile nature of their land combined with their passion for heirloom and ARK varieties results in extremely tasty and nutritious produce!
Farming is not something that was passed down through the generations to the Borchardts. Bob works video production through his production company Cuisine Populaire while Jenny worked for 18 years in publishing. Jenny and Bob have always been passionate about food, the importance of Organics, and the health of the land around them, so it’s no surprise they would eventually turn their talents to farming. The farming bug first bit at a Farmers’ Market in Colorado. There they came across a Hardneck variety of Garlic and decided this was the best thing they’d ever had. They came back to Chicago and couldn’t find anything quite like it. After Bob had filmed an organic food operation in Argentina around the same time, the couple decided to start looking at properties. After looking at over 30 different properties over the past few years, things really started to come together when they found the property in the Driftless Region on the South fork of the Bad Axe River. This land is known to be incredibly fertile with a high amount of natural organic matter. While this did prove great for future growing, there was plenty of work to be done in that first year. The land was completely empty so Bob began focusing on building, planning and logistics while Jenny turned her eye toward the plants. Jenny started taking farm classes and worked a few internships to get into the swing of things. The broad range of the Borchardt’s talents has led to a great partnership. The couple works together on everything, forming a partnership that lets them focus their efforts on the different aspects of farm life. Bob focuses on distribution, sales and logistics while Jenny is working in the fields and supervising crop production.
What makes Harvest Moon Farms unique in an area with lots of other Organic Farms is their approach to growing. The Borchardts don’t just grow produce and hope for sales. In order to be sustainable they initially focused on the restaurant industry. Jenny and Bob have had a great deal of experience in the restaurant business. Bob’s grandmother owned a restaurant and his brother is a chef. They decided to think in terms of how their food tastes and how it would end up on menus. In order to achieve this they also need to educated people on exactly what heirloom varieties are and how to use them. The couple set up a full commercial kitchen in a barn where they test out different uses for their unique product. They invite chefs in to experiment with their food in hopes of educating them on the importance of fresh, local food. Harvest Moon Farms is definitely an expanding operation and in addition to their sales to restaurants and Fresh Picks they can be found at Farmer Fridays, which is their only Farmer’s Market, located in the parking lot of Uncommon Ground, June through October.
Thankfully growing is not one of the biggest challenges for Harvest Moon Farms. Its fertile location leads to rich soil and tremendous produce. For Bob and Jenny the biggest hurdle is more a logistical one. Getting the produce efficiently into the city through proper packaging and transportation has been a challenge. This year Harvest Moon Farms is teaming up with 6 area farms growing Certified Organic and Certified Naturally Grown produce. By forming the Harvest Moon Farms Producers Guild they are not only able to offer larger quantities and varieties of products, but they are also able to work together on distribution and transportation to reduce their carbon footprint. It is truly a benefit to all as the Amish farms can sell more of their products at better prices.
Typical Farm Day
A typical day on the farm will vary with each part of the season. As of right now the focus is on preparation and getting the land ready to start planting. Last week Jenny and Bob were at the farm performing a myriad of tasks for the new season. They began early in the morning preparing the fields for plowing and then split up to get as much done as possible. Jenny was busy with the thousands of plants in the greenhouse while Bob worked out space management in the barn. They are expecting a lot more produce this year so it is important to make sure there’s a place for everything. The couple came back together and foraged watercress growing throughout their land and finished up the day meeting with the local farmers that form their Producers Guild.
Best of Farming
What Bob loves about the process is thinking back to the times when they’ve had reactions from their customers on how the produce really tastes. They receive emails from people telling them that a certain vegetable is the best they’ve ever had! For Bob this is the most gratifying part. When you look back on how much work it took to produce that piece of produce (the seeds, the planting, the packaging, the transportation) it makes it all worth it.
Here at Fresh Picks we will be carrying a variety of Harvest Moon Farms’ unique, fresh produce!