Tim Huth, owner of the LotFotL (Living off the Fat of the Land) Community Farm and his partner April Yuds, who works as a full-time manager on the farm, are committed to living harmoniously with the land and community. They say organic farming is all about finding balance. (Photo by Tyler Lamb)

 

By Tyler Lamb

Editor

Farming is an arduous life of long hours fighting bugs and economic cycles, while praying for the right weather.

Yet for Tim Huth and his partner April Yuds the rewards of planting, growing and harvesting the fruits of the land is an unparalleled conduit between the land and its bounty.

Huth owns and operates LotFotL Community Farm nestled in the idyllic countryside along Quinney Road in Elkhorn. Yuds assists him as a full-time manager on the farm.

LotFotL is acronym, standing for Living off the Fat of the Land. A name that quantifies Huth’s personal philosophy.

“In my early days of learning to grow food I worked on a (Community Shared Agriculture) farm in Whitewater. That year we had a terrible year, weather wise, so we were having to break a lot of new ground to get the soil ready,” Huth recalled. “The season wasn’t going well and we were really understaffed. So in my first year of working on somebody else’s operation I was kind of doing everything after planting was done.

“One week I brought a list of the content that was going to be in that week’s box to the owner of the operation. The fields were bad enough that I was out harvesting blackcaps and watercress from a creek nearby,” he continued. “The owner got kind of uptight about what we had to offer, and said ‘We are not making progress here. We’re just living off the fat of the land.’ I kept coming back to that moment with her because I felt like it was pretty cool that there was that much to eat right under foot. So LotFotL reminds me I have to feed the soil, otherwise I don’t get fed.”

 

Genesis

In 2007, Huth started LotFotL on a land lease in East Troy.

“I initially started under a program where if you wanted to get started and you had a business plan, and the chutzpah to want to get it started, you could rent land, rent the equipment and have the structural package needed for a solid business,” Huth said. “Every year there was the understanding it would get closer to the actual costs of utilizing that equipment.

“There was also the understanding this was a temporary thing,” he continued. “It was an incubator and I was the egg. It gave me time to grow wings and play in the world a little bit.”

Three years later Huth moved the farm to the historic Quinney Family Farm. John and Bridget Quinney originally started the farm in 1868.

Dr. Richard Quinney, a philosopher and author of the memoir “Of Time and Place: A Farm in Wisconsin,” which details the rich history of the farm his great-grandparents began, owns the lush 160-acre property with his brother, Ralph.

According to Huth, the brothers leased the farm to the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in 2004. The institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture.

Huth subleases 16 acres from John Hall, program director of integrated farming systems at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute.

“About 10 years ago, the brothers decided they wanted the farm to be more sustainably managed. They didn’t want it to just be cash cropped,” Huth said. “They wanted to make sure the soils were given breaks and attempt to do some fertility management as well. They approached Michael Fields and asked if they were willing to do more sustainable things.

“The other thing they felt was missing on the farm was the pulse they had growing up on a farm that was really vibrant,” he continued. “Previously, you had a renter in the house who wasn’t very connected to the land or the farm itself. Those two things precipitated them to work with Michael Fields, and that is when John Hall took over management of the farm and started doing much more with the local manure resource. Doing a lot more with cover cropping to give the soils a break.”

Ultimately, when Huth arrived at the Quinney Family Farm it gave the family an opportunity to reinvest in the farm. Now, all the buildings on the property are wired for electricity and the barn has a new roof, Huth said.

 

Quinney Farm (Photo by LotFotL)

 

Growing organic

Both Huth and Yuds believe on the farm, as in life, everything depends on balance. To subside off the land is to live harmoniously as a member of a larger community.

As such, the farm has a goal of being certified organic by next year.

“Organics is tricky. There are man made, synthetic things you can use and then there are also naturally occurring things you can’t use,” Huth said.

Despite long hours and the sometimes unpredictable aspects of organic farming, for Huth, the rewards outweigh the possible risks. He prides himself on producing quality food for the community.

“The health benefits are sometimes a little dubious, but there are more and more tests that come out that talk directly to the problems a lot of these conventional farms have with health. A lot of that health is worker health,” Huth said. “We have a neighbor down the road who was growing vegetables conventionally on muck soils, and using chemicals like herbicides to kill the tops of carrots and other things.

“The label would say the herbicide had a year of affectability. Basically if you use it in the field you have a year until you should use it again,” he continued. “Those chemicals are hanging out in those soils for five, six, seven years and a lot of those people ended up with serious cancer rates, kidney failure and all sorts of things. So the health of the farmer is also an important thing. Why have farmers subject themselves to that type of danger just so somebody can eat a cheaper carrot?”

Beyond the all around health benefits of organic farming, it’s also about being a proper steward of the land, according to Huth.

“When you are using these pesticides that a conventional farmer will often use, they target so much,” he said. “It creates a vacuum in nature … instead of doing that, why not build systems that allow for as many of those predators to hang out as possible? Let them do the work. They don’t file for disability or unemployment.”

 

Harder to grow organic?

The challenges of growing organically isn’t so much the cultivating the products, as it is paying more for key material, said Huth.

“In the vegetable world, it is easier to grow organic, and be profitable doing so, then say cash corn,” he said. “But there definitely are tricks. With their ability to use herbicides they don’t quite need the labor force we need to manage their fields.

“Their yield potentials are possibly higher. Being able to use treated seed is the biggest difference,” he continued. “There is a cost deficiency when it comes to organics. We have to buy slightly more expensive seed and more of it. The real difference is labor. We have a much higher labor budget than most conventional vegetable farms.”

However, Huth is quick to remind people growing organically is not all that dissimilar to how past generations operated.

“Our growing style is not all that dissimilar than the parents of most farmers today,” Huth said, “and this local food push that has happened really rode on the back of organics for a long time.”

 

CSA model

According to Huth, his CSA (CSA – Community Shared Agriculture) consists of roughly 460 members, up from 80 members in 2008.

“We are not going to grow any more than that,” he said. “The next couple of years I’m going to focus in being a better grower. Not be so volume focused.”

LotFotL Community Farm offers three different types of CSA shares. They are as follows:

Staple Share – This share is designed around items that most anyone would know how to prepare. It typically feeds one to three people with six to eight items per week.

“CSA can be intimidating for some people,” Huth said. “They don’t know how to cook all the exotic produce. The Staple Share removes some of that.”

Gonzo Share – This share is comparable to many full shares, with larger portions of items found in the Staple Share. However, it includes an additional two to four items per week, and typically feeds two to four people with eight to 12 items per week.

Seesaw Share – This share is an every other week Gonzo Share that provides more produce per delivery that the Staple Share. This share has 13 distributions across 26 weeks.

“Currently we are full. We do have a waiting list and we start signing people up again for 2014 in late October or early November,” Huth said.

In parting, Yuds said eating and shopping locally ultimately maintains the health of the community.

“Local food is important to me. I feel like more and more people are starting to realize they want to shop locally and the benefits of eating locally has health benefits, but more importantly your money stays in the community and circulates through the community,” Yuds said. “It makes it a more desirable place to live.

“I also encourage people to support their local farmers markets because these little markets can have a hard time getting going,” she continued. “They don’t get enough foot traffic, and when there is not enough people then the farmers don’t want to come, and when the framers don’t want to come the people don’t want to come.”

 

LotFotL Community Farm manager April Yuds harvests honey, which comes from the farm’s Honey Bee Sanctuary. (Photo by LotFotL)

 

Contact

If you’re interested in learning more about the LotFotL Community Farm, or how to sign up for the CSA waiting list, visit lotfotl.com. An informational electronic newsletter can also be found on the farm’s website. Interested parties can also call the farm at (920) 318-3800, or look the farm up on Facebook at LotFotL Community Farm.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Stace says:

    I am a VERY happy member of this CSA!!! I only wish I had found them sooner! This is my second year and even with the heat and drought last year I was very pleased. Not only veggies but fruit, grass fed beef and even wonderful (no icky nitrates) sausage have been AMAZING!!!!

  2. Amy J. Tisdale says:

    Yeah, Tim and April and your crew. You are doing so much good for the community and the world. Keep up your hard work. I’m so proud of you both.

    Mom