Though Family Farm Produce's on-farm store is open to the public by early June, locals don't begin swarming down the lane 'til mid-June or so, drawn by the exquisite strawberries that are carefully hand-picked and displayed by family members. The sweet, juicy berries are enjoyed first as prized summer desserts and then year-round in jams and canned confections.
While there are a few things grown exclusively for the farm store and its local clientele—rhubarb, sweet corn and melons—the lion's share of the produce on this eighty acre Amish farm in Vernon County, Wisconsin, is sold by Organic Valley in stores near and far from the hills and valleys of this region.
The Bontragers moved from northern Indiana to Wisconsin in 1989. When they came to look for land the previous July, southwest Wisconsin was in the throes of one of the driest growing seasons on record. Onions that had been planted by some farmers had not even topped through the soil and crops failed. Still, the Bontragers were drawn to this creased and ancient landscape where what was then a fledgling Amish community was established and, in conjunction with Mr. Bontrager's brother, bought their land. The young family, only three children strong at the time, came north with two small herds of Jerseys and Holsteins and a few horses. Their very first crop was sold to Organic Valley in 1991, back when the Cooperative was in its infancy.