Getting to Know Your Grower: Sharing an organic garden with the community
By Jed Buelow
Co-Editor, Sports, Nature Editor
A young child came running out of the long rows of broccoli and brussel sprouts chomping on a carrot he had just picked from the field.
Over where his parents were gathered, his older brother shared how he and a visiting friend had just discovered a secret passage in the haymow after an afternoon spent exploring on the farm.
The orange carrot swung in the air as Elton followed in toe as Matt and Krista Hau described the inner workings of their recently-certified organic farm Pine Grove Pastures, located just west of Tomahawk off County Highway 86.
Life on the farm – a vision the young couple set out to fulfill for the family after moving to their 40-acre parcel in Tomahawk several years ago. From a couple fields of horse pasture to the sprawling vegetable gardens and hoop houses that now cover their land, the Haus have been busy converting Pine Grove Pastures into a fully functioning Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm that currently provides fresh, homegrown produce to 35 families in the greater Tomahawk area.
“If you averaged it out over the season, it would probably come out to around 450 to 500 pounds of produce each week,” Matt said of all the fruits and vegetables that are grown and distributed through the CSA throughout the summer. “The CSA runs 18 weeks from late June to mid October.”
What that eye-catching number comes out to is simply dumbfounding, as the Haus grow from seed and distribute to their CSA families roughly 9,000 pounds of organic produce over the course of a summer. And that’s on top of all the other produce that is grown and preserved to feed their family throughout the year, which includes another big pile needed to feed two growing boys in Elton and his big brother Everett.
And that’s still on top of an even bigger pile of organic produce that Matt and a helper harvest each week throughout the summer to sell at the Downtown Farmers Market each and every Tuesday. To fulfill such obligations, he estimates 200 tomato plants were put in the ground this spring, a 120’-by-30’ hoop house and a 48’-by-30’ hoop house are packed with plants and even more outside vegetable gardens are filled with everything from corn to squash and of course plenty of zucchini and just about every other vegetable under the sun.
As one could imagine, planting season is a pretty busy time of the year at Pine Grove Pastures. In fact, Matt said his planting season is still going as more lettuce was recently put in the ground to make for a fall harvest.
“The secret is to just keep planting and planting,” Matt said with a smile of how he will grow what will likely exceed five tons of organic produce this summer at his farm.
And the fact that Pine Grove Pastures was just certified organic was no small goal and something the couple is very proud to provide for their family and CSA members. For those who care about their food and what they put into their body, it means no potentially harmful chemicals were used to keep pests and weeds away from the produce grown. It means the fertilizer used was made on the farm and not from a synthetic blend made in a lab. It means those eating the produce can see where and how their food was grown and know the people who brought it to harvest.
“Food is important to us,” Krista said of the reason the couple got into starting a CSA and why they had Pine Grove Pastures certified as an organic farm (a process that took over three years and a lot of record keeping to fulfill). “The large scale allows us to share with the community what we grow and pay for the kind of lifestyle we want to live.”
To go along with all the organic gardening, Pine Grove Pastures also produces goat milk soap that it sells at the Tomahawk Farmers Market. They also have pastured pork, 100 percent grass-fed beef and about 120 chickens that they are raising for meat.
A CSA relies on funds from those receiving produce to help pay to plant all the produce that is grown each summer. Therefore, those currently enrolled will be given the first option to sign on to take part again next growing season. Matt added he would like to increase the number of families served from 35 to around 50 to 60 in the coming years (there are two sizes of containers that can be chosen from depending on how much produce a person would want) as Pine Grove Pastures continues to grow making even more locally grown organic produce available to the Tomahawk community.
For more information on the CSA and one of Lincoln County’s first organically certified vegetable farms, stop by the Downtown Tomahawk Farmers Market on Tuesdays this summer and talk with Matt. Or, visit pinegrovepastures.com to see more about products available and to learn more about – Life on the Farm at Pine Groves Pasture.
Getting to Know Your Grower is part of a Tomahawk Main Street Inc. series for the Tuesday downtown farmers market. The market will run into October and takes place every Tuesday from 1-5:30 p.m. on Third Street in downtown Tomahawk.
For more information on the market, visit tomahawkmainstreet.org.