Around the Harvest Table

by Terese Allen, Food Editor

Shana Berg

Shana Berg lives with her husband Darin and two boys in southwestern Wisconsin, in a richly fertile hilled region flanked by the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers. The couple's farm, a certified organic egg, dairy and beef operation, has been in the family for four generations.

In 1993, when Darin and Shana were married, she says, "I was a full fledged city girl and had no idea what I was getting myself into. I informed Darin prior to our marriage that I was NOT a farm girl and would continue my career while he farmed....silly girl!" She sold insurance for more than 13 years, working 50 to 60 hours a week until 1998, when the loss of three children (including a set of twins) prompted a lifestyle change. "It was in 2002 that Darin convinced me to get involved in the egg business, and it was the best thing I ever did."

Now the farm is her work, but she shares it with the whole family. Darin and a hired hand handle the milking, Shana and the boys take care of the calves and chickens, and they get help from other family members with the field work. She says, too, that her children help out in the kitchen and are "official taste testers, which means they hang around waiting for the next utensil to 'lick' clean!"

Do you have a garden and do you pickle or preserve any of it?

We do have a garden in which we grow tomatoes, pumpkins, onions, cucumbers, carrots, etc. As a family, we can salsa, spaghetti sauce, pickled green beans and several varieties of jam. Everyone has a job, whether it be picking, cleaning, peeling, chopping or taste-testing.

Besides putting up food for winter, what does "harvest time" mean to you?

Fall harvest is the beginning of the end of our "crazy" time of year. It is also the time when we finally get to reap the rewards from a long, hard summer. Summer is so busy that fun family time is hard to come by. Fall and winter are when we get to catch our breath and really spend some fun time together.

How is your fall cooking different than other times of the year?

Once the weather cools off, baking really kicks in. During the summer we do a lot of grilling and open fire cooking. We dug a fire pit in our yard several years back and the boys really enjoy having "backyard" campfires. We also set up a tent for impromptu campouts. Fall and winter bring more home baked goodies: apple pies, bread, rolls, soups etc. It's time to "fatten" up Darin after a long summer!

What are some seasonal dishes that are a special hit in your family?

Crunchy caramel apple pie, chicken noodle soup, burrito casserole, three cheese spaghetti bake, hot beef sandwiches, cream puffs, and meatballs.

Now you've made me hungry! How would you describe your cooking style?

I can't say that I have a specific style. During the summer, it's whatever is fast, filling and quick. In the cooler months, anything goes! I like to experiment with new recipes and my family is very good about trying new things. The only problem with that is, I often find a recipe my family really enjoys, and then don't make it for a long time because I have a list of recipes still to try!

What's your definition of success?

I measure success by how happy my family and I are and our ability to "make ends meet" and still enjoy life. Probably the greatest measure is, are we enjoying life, work and each other on a daily basis? If the answer is yes, more often than no, than I know we are doing the right thing.

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