When Bob Dylan said, “I ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s Farm no more”, we’re not sure he had a chance to see Farmer Maggie in action, growing her herbs and heirlooms for home gardens across Southeastern Wisconsin. A former Information Systems Analyst, Maggie in 1999 took her love of herb, vegetable, and flower gardening to the next level and soon after retirement, moved with her husband to their dream “hobby farm” in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. This “hobby farm” now extends across 10 acres with three vegetable plots, dozens of herb and flower beds and over 100 trees and shrubs.
Slow Food WISE caught up with Maggie to hear about what inspired her to grow heirloom varieties–six of which are featured in our Ark of Taste plant set. Check back next year on our Ark of Taste page to see what we’ll be offering!
SF WISE: “What is this time of year like for you, and how long does the planning process take to grow plants like yours?”
Maggie: “This time of year, Maggie’s Herbs and Heirlooms takes over our little farm! Last October, I started planning for the spring by putting several large herb plants in pots and moving them to their winter locations. This project keeps me thinking of plants all year long, but when February arrives, I need to head right into planting the rest of the ‘crop’. I have a little room built in a barn which is insulated and heated, with shelves and fluorescent lights, where I start all of the plants that I do from seed. I have developed a system and schedule which allows me to transition the room continuously. Most things go into a small heated greenhouse first, then they get transferred to the ‘big house’, as we call it, to finish off. Some things like peppers need more heat and a longer time to develop, so they go first. Then the spring greens, cabbage family and herbs get a brief shot at the space. After that, the tomatoes take over.”
SF WISE: “We know you take a lot of care in choosing your seeds from open source operations like Seed Saver’s Exchange, Seeds of Change, and Richter’s Herbs. You also grow organically. Any food for thought for the beginner gardener?”
Maggie: “My philosophy is that a healthy plant can survive most insect and disease problems, so I focus on healthy plants. The best part of this endeavor is the miracle of witnessing the transformation from seed or little cutting to plant. After 14 years, I still don’t tire of this. Discovering new heirlooms and hearing customers’ stories of their gardens completes the package. I hope the world continues the journey of taking treasures from the past into the future through food. It makes it a better place for all of us.”
Learn more about Maggie’s Herbs and Heirlooms by visiting her website.