Eva, my four year old, and I took a little field trip last week 50 miles to the south of our home in the St. Croix River Valley to my family’s other organic farm. Twin Organics is located just outside River Falls, Wisconsin and is owned and operated by my twin brothers, Jacob and Andrew Helling. Jacob and Andrew were instrumental in helping Hillside Prairie Gardens resume larger growing practices in 2010 and are now branching out to their own place to grow organic veggies for restaurants in the Twin Cities area. They’ve rented 5 acres these last two years on what used to be a grass fed cattle operation, and they share space with a group of jovial Kenyan farmers wielding hand tools to the north and Clover Bee Farm, an organic CSA and market grower, to the east. They won’t stay here forever, but for now, it’s the home of Twin Organics and life is thriving in the rich Wisconsin soil.
Driving up, we were greeted by a greenhouse full of new seedlings after we turned onto the tire tracks path from the main gravel road. The twins were nowhere to be found, but the Kenyans were hoeing vigorously in the distance and waved in welcome as we approached. After awhile, my brothers came ambling over from the next hill and we sat down for a hot lunch in the sun, dining on an old picnic table with overturned buckets as our chairs. We picked up the conversation where it left off the last time we kept company, Eva drew designs on the side of the car in the dust and the newly warm breeze drifted around us as we breathed in the fresh air and soaked up the sun’s rays.
After a little tour of the greenhouse, the fields and high tunnels that house the tomatoes, Eva and I watched the neighbor till up the future squash field, collected the seedlings for our own garden, filled up our water jugs and let the farmers get back to work.
A brief visit, but at the same time, a strong reinforcement that spending time in the open air, setting one’s own schedule, working with instead of over the land and living in a way that takes care of the earth runs deep in the veins of my family. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Anthropocentric as [the gardener or farmer] may be, he recognizes that he is dependent for his health and survival on many other forms of life, so he is careful to take their interests into account in whatever he does. He is in fact a wilderness advocate of a certain kind. It is when he respects and nurtures the wilderness of his soil and his plants that his garden seems to flourish most. Wildness, he has found, resides not only out there, but right here: in his soil, in his plants, even in himself…
But wildness is more a quality than a place, and though humans can’t manufacture it, they can nourish and husband it…
The gardener cultivates wildness, but he does so carefully and respectfully, in full recognition of its mystery.”
― Michael Pollan