Real Food, Sustainably Grown with Organic Inputs
Our choice of operating a small, organic farm comes from our desire to live in a way that is ethical and sustainable and to do simple things to improve our community. We've attempted to evolve Blue Skies Farm into what we believe a small farm would have been like 75 years ago or like small farms we've seen in Europe.
Like those farms, much of the work here is hand work, including the seeding, hoeing and harvesting. In addition, rather than fostering the agri-entertainment concept that so many pick-your-own berry farms have, Blue Skies offers only an opportunity to step back for an "outing to the farm" to pick berries, enjoy sitting in the shade, tossing a stick for the dog and being unhurried for a morning or afternoon.
We happened on this viewpoint from several sources. Among them was through our educational backgrounds, our individual upbringings, and our continued self education through reading.
Among the places we've gleaned our inspiration are the writings of Henry David Thoreau, Aldo Leopold, Helen and Scott Nearing, Carlo Petrini in the Slow Food movement, Wendel Berry, Michael Pollan and Angelo Pelligrini to name just a few. In addition, Paul spent several years under the tutelage of Professors Marlin Johnson and Jim Cheney at UWC Waukesha where, for several years in the early 1980s, they taught a course called Wilderness University that examined agricultural and wilderness philosophies.
Of late, Paul and Louise give credit the many Midwest chefs - Rick Bayless, Tracy Vowell, Bruce Sherman, Paul Kahan, Tory Miller - who have guided and supported Blue Skies by using their products and sharing secrets in vegetable preparation.
Our Ideals include:
Demonstrating that small-scale agriculture is a viable option in a rapidly urbanizing area.
Preserving our area's rural heritage and landscape by revitalizing and preserving the look and architecture of our 1867 farmhouse, barn and outbuildings.
Preserving our ethnic heritage by adding a Scandinavian influence to Blue Skies Farm with the annual Juhannus Festival as well as other Finnish and Copper Country traditions.
Building a stronger local community and economy by providing safe, toxic-free day labor to youths, underemployed and elderly in our area. One of the major problems for rural youth is that they can't get jobs because they need a car. Blue Skies is often the first job for many area teens.
Demonstrating that our food source streams can be local and don't have to be trucked across the nation.
Demonstrating that fresh vegetables, fruits and meats are easy to use in creating heathy meals and that they are better for us than the processed, fast-food culture we've been taught to accept.
Exemplifying environmental concern by reusing and recycling products and equipment and by using Organic growing methods.
Paul with Carlo Petrini of the Slow Food Movement.
The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, Pub. 2006
In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan, Pub. 2008
The Unprejudiced Palate, by Angelo Pellegrini, Pub. 1948
Slow Food Nation, by Carlo Petrini, Pub. 2007
Real Food, Sustainably Grown with Organic Inputs
Blue Skies Farm was Certified Organic from 1995 until 2006. In 2007, after reading Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, we stopped supporting the USDA and its Organic Certification Program. We continue to use traditional Organic Growing methods as described in the National Standards and by J.I. Rodale, the original founder and publisher of Organic Gardening magazine.
So why aren't we Certified Organic?
We have several reasons for dicontinuing USDA certification. Frankly we abhore the use of synthetic chemicals and refuse to use them. In addition, after reading Michael Polan's books and meeting with Michael in the early 2000s we realized that for us supporting the USDA's program was not necessary and wasn't in line with our philosopy, which leans more toward community buildling, self sufficiency and using a permiculture approach to growing.
There are some more closer personal reasons we halted our certification. I was being pushed over the edge by mounting paperwork and regulations that I felt did not take into account econcomics of our size. In 2005 we were informed by our certifier that we should seek out organic grass seed to plant in the pathways between our raspberry rows -- or keep them open and tilled -- since grass seed is an input to the soil. In our method of growing we feel that grass pathways are better. That issue came after several years of negotiating our border buffer (1993 through 2002) in which the rules stated that we needed a 25-foot buffer or "adequate verticle barrier". In those days we had one row of raspberries within that 25-buffer area, so in addition to our fence, we installed a snow fence, a berm to prevent any runoff and a double tree line of poplar and arbor vitae. What we found is that in one year it would be approved by our certifier, the next it wasn't depending on who happened to reviewing our application. When it wasn't the paperwork piled up -- during peak raspberry harvest. I became frustrated by "the system." I came to realize that I became a market gardener to garden, not sit behind a desk and fill out forms. Market gardening is therapy for me, not filing forms at the whims of someone in a certifying agency in Nebraska.
So if weren't certified Organic, what is Blue Skies?
We grow our produce using organic methods. We can not legally use the term "Organic" because the USDA now owns the use rights to that term and we must pay them (the certifying fee) if we use it.
For those of you concerned or interested we will happily walk you through our farm and more to show how we operate. We use only OMRI approved controls for insects and disease when they are necessary per the USDA Organic Standards and per the recommendations JI Rodale of the Organic Gardening Magazine. Plus, we apply nutrients as prescibed in the USDA Organic Standards.