Whitefeather OrganicsInterview by Carla Minsky
Meet Tony and Laura Whitefeather. Together they own Whitefeather Organics, a farm in Custer, and can be called “boomerangers.” She was born and raised in Wisconsin, attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for wildlife and biology, and met Tony here. The two of them took off to travel the country, deciding to come back to Wisconsin, in their words, for the soil, the water, and family.
Setting a Path
“I definitely wanted to entertain farming and I’m glad my path went this way,” said Laura. Tony, who had grown up around farming and was already engaged in organic vegetable farming, rolled right into it. They have three children, grade school through high school-aged, and they’re already pitching in too.
They started the farm in fall 2006, making a conscious decision to earn organic designation according to Tony. “For me, I have an ecological mind and so does Laura and this was one way to make a difference,” explained Tony. “Food is an important part of humanity, with the advancement of humanity being agriculture, and going the organic route is showing we can feed people while protecting wells in the community and surrounding ourselves with clean food.” The couple works hard to maintain the fertility of the soil, a delicate balance in an organic system.
Local Food Scene
When asked to describe the journey of food from their farm to chef’s cutting board at a local restaurant to a diner’s fork, Laura and Tony said they first order seeds, some heirloom, always trialing new varieties. They even do some seed collecting themselves. They see their order arrive in January and are handing out produce in the fall. They supply to nearly a dozen local restaurants, they’re a regular at the Stevens Point Farmers’ Market and they sell CSA shares.
One thing they don’t do is tell a chef how to cook, joked Tony. “There’s a relationship there, with chefs talking to us about growing particular crops they like, crops that will help them stand out,” said Tony. According to Laura, shoppers at the farmers’ market like the unique items, vegetables they might not be familiar with, which leads to informal recipe tutorials. “We engage people in conversation and they come back for more,” said Laura.
“We’re spoiled because we get to eat our produce all the time, and others tell us they can’t go back to eating the way they did before,” shared Tony.
Five Foodie Questions
1. Most unusual item in your CSA share? Microgreens like bleeding heart sorrel. We try to make microgreens part of a meal, not just a pretty garnish.
2. Most popular veggie? Sweet corn, we never have enough of that. We’re also known for our large array of unique potatoes and sweet peppers. And our mushrooms set us apart.
3. Veggie everyone should try at least once? Celeriac. Try it in a slaw.
4. What’s the next “it” veggie? It’s looking like brussels sprouts. Sautée in wedges with chopped bacon. That makes a great topping for butternut squash soup.
5. Can people tour the farm? We have several main tours during the summer and a grand finale in the fall for a harvest party.
Expand Your Inspiration
Learn more about Wisconsin's oldest farmers market, where you'll spot Whitefeather Organics and several other local farmers selling their seasonal goods.
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