TOWN OF BLOOMFIELD — In the wake of poverty and processed foods, one family strives to solve hunger problems with fresh produce.
The Narayanans own and operate their own vegetable farm/store, The Farmstead, W199 Highway 50.
Last year, they started The Farmstead, which has a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, wholesales to such restaurants as Simple Café, Lake Geneva, and participates the Lake Geneva Farmer’s Market.
“Growing for intentional giving” is the motto used by the Narayanans — Vijay, Beth, and their children, Clara, Grace and Lilly.
Beth and Vijay became farmers about 10 years ago, first learning about agriculture on a small family farm in northern Illinois.
They practice sustainable farming, which is based more in understanding relationships between organisms and their environment.
The Narayanans focus on developing healthy soil in which to grow their vegetables, encouraging pollinators by planting flowering cover crops and using people-powered tools and small machines.
“Most planting, weed control and harvesting operations are done using specialized, small-scale farming equipment, including walk-behind and crawler plants, two-wheeled tractors with tillage implements, hand tools and the traditional hand-picked-into-a-bucket method,” said Beth, who participated in the following Q&A.
Note: This has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Resorter: How does it feel to grow your own food?
Beth Narayanan: There is something so satisfying to sitting down to a meal that you not only prepared yourself, but that you also grew the ingredients for. It is a feeling of amazement at the complexity of the life bursting from something as small and inconspicuous as a seed, combined with the simple process of caring for the plant until it produces a vegetable. ...
It is the hard work in the field, the days of watching the plant grow, and then finally picking the ripened vegetable. The fulfillment is found in the wonder of the whole process that you had everything — yet nothing — to do with. You can taste the difference.
R: How is sustainable farming important today?
BN: The unfortunate reality is that many of us don’t know where our vegetable, fruits, meats, cheese, breads, etc,. come from — other than the grocery store. We don’t understand seasonality because we’ve come to expect tomatoes in December and sweet corn in May, in the Midwest!
Local, sustainable farming allows for seasonally grown produce to be available at peak ripeness, taste, and nutrition to the local community. It allows for a relationship to form and continue between the farmer and the consumer, connecting with the person that grows your food and being able to ask them — and see with your own eyes — how your food is grown is empowering. Become an advocate for the food you eat and support your local farmer.
R: Where do you see your farm in the next five years?
BN: The next five years will be a period of growth for our farm as we expand our vegetable sales into the community through expanded retail hours on the farm, the addition of multiple CSA drop off locations, and wholesale opportunities. We will also expand our intentional giving program to include all of the communities in Walworth County.
R: What is the best part of farming?
BN: Farming is all about family. For us, family includes not only our relatives, but also our friends, the friends we consider relatives, neighbors, the people we know from church and school, the people we work with and the people we have met at the farmers market. We call these people our “FARM-ily” ... together we plant the seeds, tend the plants, harvest the produce and enjoy the bounty.
For more information on The Farmstead, visit www.mywiscofarmstead.com.