Local Flavor: North Wind Organic Farm
Bayfield, Wis. offers the perfect climate for growing fruits, making it home to many orchards. On the fringe of the more traditional ones lies North Wind Organic Farm. Named after the wind generator which provides a substantial portion of the farm’s electricity, North Wind’s owners Tom Galazen and Ann Rosenquist use alternative agricultural techniques to grow a diverse variety of crops, including the apples, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries that folks have come to expect from the area.
The farm has been off the grid since 1982, using solar panels and a wind generator. Tom and Ann use a fleet of small electric vehicles where practical and affordable, including a small truck-like electric vehicle, an electric riding lawn mower, and an Allis-Chalmers cultivating tractor that has solar panels mounted on the back. They also do many things by hand, using simple tools.
North Wind officially started business with a small crop of strawberries in 1986. Since then, the farm has added raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, rhubarb, aronia berries, kiwi, currants, apples, apricots, and various minor fruits. They also grow and market many vegetables including greens, lettuce, tomatoes, garlic, squash, beans, peas, carrots, melons, and more.
An ever-changing crew of seasonal help, many of whom have gone on to farm themselves, work the land with Tom and Ann. The farm spread includes over 125 acres, with much of that in woodlands, hayfields, natural areas, and buffer zones. Crops are grown on around eight acres.
“The land here is treated with respect and care,” Ann says. “Our green-grown crops are raised without chemical pesticides or artificial fertilizers, in accordance with organic standards, though we are not certified.”
And the land rewards that careful attention with a bounty of fruits and vegetables. Each season, Tom and Ann produce hundreds of jars of jam. The farmers cook berries down on a wood stove in their state-licensed and inspected production facility.
North Wind Organic Farm offers over 30 different varieties of jams, jellies, and other packaged foods. They pride themselves on using more unusual fruits in their products, such as aronia berries. Aronia, also known as chokeberries, contain high amounts of polyphenols (which studies have shown could help prevent certain types of cancers).
In addition to Chequamegon Food Co-op, North Wind sells their products at some local farmers markets, through a Community Supported Agriculture subscription service, and at their on-farm store, which is open daily all summer. Most of the various berries are available for pick-your-own or ready-picked. Check the farm for hard-to-find items like sweet grass, chaga, hand-harvested wild rice, brain-tanned deerskins, pickled garlic and hand painted silk scarves. They also sell a variety of potted plants, including hardly kiwis and other unusual varieties. The farm hosts events from time to time, including an annual seed swap, grafting and brain tanning workshops, farm tours, and volunteer and intern opportunities.
“We are passionate about operating in a manner that enhances environmental quality,” Tom says. Even though their choices often mean more work, less payback, and a longer timeframe, Tom and Ann are committed to a more sustainable way of farming. And they reap the rewards as each season passes.