By Madelon Wise
All photos by Madelon Wise
Emily Steinwehe of Wisconsin Food Forests was contacted by Paul Huber, Troy Farm Director, to speak to this year’s farm trainees about growing fruit on their 5-acre site on Madison’s north side. A diversified farm operation and Madison’s first urban farm, Troy Farm is part of a much larger network called Rooted, (formerly Community Groundworks) which, according to their website, is “committed to collaborations rooted in food, land, and learning.” Troy is an USDA-certified organic farm.
Emily gathered the socially distanced farmers: Emma Kloes; Gerald Foulker; Sam Douglass, Troy Farm Crew Leader; and Paul Huber. These farmers, as well as Taylor Foster, Qwantese Winters, Pam Murelles, Emma Waldinger, and Maureen Murphy, are all part of the Troy Farm Urban Farmer in Training Program, wherein they work with Troy’s farmers and staff to learn every aspect of vegetable growing. These trainees learn from experienced urban farmers throughout the season, and in addition to learning about growing vegetables, they also learn how to sell them through Troy’s CSA, farm stand, and wholesale distribution.
In her introductory remarks, Emily described a food forest and spoke about methods used by indigenous hunter-gatherer people, who worked with and mimicked nature rather than trying to conquer it. Emily described the different layers of a food forest, in which guilds of supportive plants are planted in companionship with fruit and nut trees. The layers of a food forest also mimic nature.
The group moved to an area where previous occupants had planted a variety of fruit trees. There we observed mulberry, pear, apricot, and cherry trees, many of which Emily indicated could be restored after pruning and tending.
Troy Farm has another spot surrounding the farm fields where some mature apple trees are now bearing fruit. Emily deemed the trees to be reasonably healthy, although again, needing pruning, mulching, and tending. Emily mentioned wood chips several times as the ideal mulch for fruit trees, as they suppress weeds, hold moisture, and break down gradually, supplying nutrients to the trees.
We were delighted to see two of the farm’s beekeepers working with bees, applying medicine for mite control and ensuring that the bees have an adequate supply of honey to get them through the winter. We all know how critical honey bees are for pollinating crops, including fruits.
With guidance from Emily, the farmers spotted an area on the edges of the farm field that would be ideal for pear trees and berries. Farm Director Paul Huber says, “The addition of more fruit trees to our current operation would be a great bonus for Troy Farm.”
Wisconsin Food Forests was honored to meet the farmers and applaud their efforts at adding fruit to their harvest. Many thanks to Emily for her knowledge and expertise.