It’s charming the way the fog lays in the small valleys of Christiana and Kirkwood. The area, while generously wooded, is mostly farmland that contours with the hills. As one stands in an open field, the horizon becomes hazy and sounds are muffled when the fog settles in. For Stephen, at Sunrise Ridge Organics, it means the already still land is all the more silent.
On a recent Friday morning, the order for the day was to do some planting and cleaning. Fridays are a day that does not require much harvesting, so tasks that can wait during the week are finally tended to. Stephen was out with his brother planting cantaloupes, which were seeded three weeks ago. They take about 80 days to mature, putting them on schedule for harvest in late July through August.
The cantaloupes are an heirloom variety, “they come from Mom’s garden … they’re called the Pride of Wisconsin,” Stephen said. The melons that were planted earlier are currently under quick hoops. These hoops are covered with a white cloth, like a quilt, protecting the young plants from insects and helping them mature somewhat faster.
Elsewhere at Sunrise Ridge, Stephen has collards, scallions, carrots, gold beets, sweet potatoes, and Yukon gold potatoes in various stages of maturity. Collards and scallions are harvested daily. This is Stephen’s first summer with collards, and he has been given some tips on how to raise and harvest them from Joe, at nearby Co-op farm, Soaring Eagle Acres.
Nested in high-mounded rows, sweet potatoes are a family tradition, as Stephen’s father, Amos, started with sweet potatoes while operating a dairy farm. They were Amos’ first foray into produce and have now become his specialty. The sweet potatoes planted at Sunrise Ridge were started from the slips that initially grew at Amos’ farm, Pine Hill Organics, just across the road.
Amos and Stephen joined the Co-op during the same season in 2010. Stephen had just moved onto the land he occupies now – 17 acres that were in danger of being turned into a housing development. It was a long process, but Amos was able to acquire the land so that Stephen could start his own farming venture.
Now, with his wife Katie and their one-year-old, there’s a bright future ahead for Stephen. Each morning, except on those foggy ones, their farm is the first to catch the first sunrays because it sits on the tallest hill in the area. Aptly named Sunrise Ridge, it’s a wonderful place to greet each day.
Article by Chris Breimhurst