August 15 dawned sunny and cool—perfect for a Field Day. Historically, a Field Day is a rural “trade show” where equipment is on display and speakers share agricultural information. These events are designed to showcase best practices in farming techniques and to help build morale and enthusiasm in the farming community. Agricultural Field Day 2021 at Silverwood Park delivered on that promise.
The day’s program included presentations on small-scale vegetable and flower growing, production-scale organic farming, indigenous corn and cover cropping, and presentations on agroforestry and fruit tree cultivation. Attendance was excellent with about 30 people present throughout the day and more dropping by.
Highlights of the Day
Barb Gausman partnered with Margaret Cotter to grow a market garden at Silverwood Park in summer 2021. Their presentation on small-scale growing highlighted weed suppression strategies and composting. Attendee Erin Adamany said, “Margaret exudes passion, enthusiasm, and curiosity for growing food. Those attributes felt present in every grower that I encountered at Silverwood.”
The conversation on market gardening led to a discussion about cover crops with participants and growers. “Many of the people present were knowledgeable about agriculture practices and asked engaging questions,” Gausman reported—an observation reflected by many of the growers who gave presentations at the Field Day.
Gausmann also presented on the summer school program just completed through the Edgerton Schools, which introduced children grades K-9 to a wide range of ecology and farming-related concepts and activities with the help of Master Gardener Volunteer Ruth Flesher.
Locavore Refreshments a Hit
Food and drinks were available throughout the day, some offered for free and some sold at modest prices. Items were made from vegetable donations from five different growers at the park. Grower Kim LaPaglia’s debut of food by her business, Organic Food and Table, was a hit with many of the visitors.
Friends of Silverwood Park Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Barlow commented that, “The food was delicious. I found it very generous that the brats and wild rice that was prepared by Chef Yusuf Bin-Rella and Dan Cornelius’ crew was offered free of charge.”
Those wild rice brats and wild rice salad were provided by the Intertribal Agriculture Council, highlighting the work that grower Dan Cornelius is doing on his plot and through a PIE Food Grant from Dane County. The PIE Food Grant was created to encourage the innovative development of projects that advance equity and access in local food systems across Dane County through educational and outreach services.
Mark Doudlah of Doudlah Farms began his talk with the “why” behind his commitment to organic farming: His father died of Mantel Cell Lymphoma, a cancer that was likely due to long-term exposure to farm-related chemicals. Doudlah cultivates 1625 acres of beans and grains spread across leased parcels between Verona and Silverwood Park. At Silverwood Park his crops include a variety of beans. Doudlah went on to explain how his enormous Weed Zapper controls weeds without pesticides, by sending up to 15,000 volts of electricity into the unwanted plants, “exploding them like a potato in a microwave,” he said. Because the weeds grow faster than the plants he’s cultivating, Doudlah is able to set the long arms of the “zapper” at a height that kills the weeds but leaves the crop unharmed.
Grower Dan Cornelius, a member of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin who farms a plot at the north end of Silverwood Park, spoke about agroecological practices that not only sequester carbon to address climate change and provide habitat for native pollinators, but also produce vegetables and flowers for people’s use. He demonstrated use of his two-wheel walk-behind tractor, explaining the purpose of each attachment.
Erin Silva and Daniel Hayden from the UW-Madison presented on research and community-building efforts that connect Silverwood Park to the larger field of regenerative agriculture. Silva talked about the OGrain Network she leads, a learning community for organic and transitioning farmers. Silva also spoke more generally about her research with no-till crops and organics.
Daniel Hayeden talked more specifically about the research plot adjacent to Cornelius’s field where he is experimenting with inter-seeding different cover-crop mixtures in the indigenous corn. Hayden is from the Comanche Nation and is a Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies plant pathology. He’s doing similar research projects on land belonging to the Ho Chunk, Oneida, and Menomonee tribes.
Molly Stentz and John Peck of Yellow Dog Flowers and Produce were on hand to answer questions after having spent the morning at Madison’s Northside Farmers Market, where they sell produce and flowers grown at the park.
“I thought it was really nice day,” Dan Cornelius reflected later. “It was great to hear what different people are doing, feel a bit more connection among the growers, and show the general public what’s going on here.”
Mark Doudlah added, “You could see from their questions that ‘they got it’—the concept of regenerative agriculture. Since COVID, more people are aware of the importance of a healthy immune system. Organics have a big part in that.”
By Sarah White