Few things are more delicious than an apple fresh from the tree, or ice cream crafted from the milk of a cow you’ve just met. Our agricultural heritage shines at these farm-based attractions that offer a literal taste of Wisconsin traditions old and new.
AN ICE CREAM WONDERLAND
Located 25 minutes north of Madison, Sassy Cow Creamery has been a past winner in the World Dairy Expo’s ice cream competition. It’s no wonder, considering how much TLC the cows receive. Over 500 bright-eyed bovines munch grass and soak up sunshine in the pastures of brothers James and Robert Baerwolf. Between their farms sits the creamery, which boasts a shop, a shelter with picnic tables and kid-friendly activities like mini-tractor riding and petting baby calves and goats.
In addition to serving 29 ice cream flavors in cone, sundae and milkshake form seven days a week, the creamery shop lets you witness milk’s transformation into cheese and frozen treats on weekdays. Other popular times to visit include the annual Dairy Month celebration (June 17) and an ice cream social featuring root beer floats (Aug. 26).
Sassy Cow Creamery’s free tour, available June through August on Friday afternoons, is a chance to meet the farm’s namesakes.
“We visit the barns to pet the cows and calves,” says sales and marketing manager Kara Kasten-Olson. “Most people don’t see cows up close and personal in their daily lives, so it’s a fun experience.”
Tours start and end at the creamery, which makes it easy to top off the visit with a scoop of ice cream.
W4192 Bristol Rd., Columbus, sassycowcreamery.com
ADVENTURES IN APPLE PICKING
Apple season begins in August at Eplegaarden, a you-pick orchard and farm near Madison. Manager Rami Aburomia expects to offer 45 varieties of the fruit this year, beginning with sweet-meets-tart Zestar and pie-perfect Paula Red, a cousin of the McIntosh.
With wooden trolls and other homages to owner Betty Forest’s Norwegian roots, the orchard is rich in personality. But that’s not the main attraction, Aburomia says. His advice? Savor the simplicity of picking apples.
“We’re set up for old-time fun: filling your bag with apples and trying different kinds,” he says.
2227 Fitchburg Rd., Fitchburg, eplegaarden.com
A PERFECT SLICE
Madison’s pizza scene is a gourmand’s paradise, with toppings like wine-poached figs and pork confit appearing on menus at local restaurants. But Troy Community Farm’s pizzas outshine the competition with certified organic produce grown on-site and possibly harvested right before it goes on your pie.
Troy launched its Farm Fresh Pizza Nights in 2016 to raise money for its Beginning Farmer Training Program and its parent organization, Community GroundWorks. A wood-fired oven was constructed, and a sauce recipe was perfected. With hand-stretched mozzarella, Neapolitan-style crust and toppings like pickled fennel and shishito peppers, these 14-inch pizzas quickly attracted attention from TV stations and restaurant critics.
This summer the event returns on selected Thursdays at 500 Troy Drive, near Troy’s farm stand and kids’ garden. (Visit communitygroundworks.org for dates.) Bring your own beverages and dine at a picnic table, or get your pizza to go and explore the 15acre Troy property, which includes an “edible forest” of fruit and nut trees—you just might find dessert.
FROM FIELD TO GLASS
“When people pull into our driveway, they immediately feel relaxed,” remarks Liz Henry, co-owner of J. Henry & Sons.
It’s a fitting reaction to a farm that produces Wisconsin straight bourbon. Of course, this spirit doesn’t sprout from the soil, ready for an Old Fashioned. It’s crafted from corn, rye and wheat grown on J. Henry & Sons’ farm, where Henry’s husband, Joe, was raised.
Back then, the farm’s focus was grain seed and seed corn. Today, the star of the field is a red heirloom corn the University of Wisconsin–Madison developed in the 1930s. It’s the base of the mash the family uses to make their bourbon. Seeing the corn is also part of their farm tour, which takes place Fridays through Sundays, plus Thursdays in the summer. In addition to touring the grounds, you can bring a picnic and play yard games like Giant Jenga.
Henry enjoys explaining the bourbon-making process: fermenting the mash, distilling the bourbon and then aging it in the century-old rickhouse, which used to be a dairy barn. Tastings are done in the 120-year-old farmhouse, and each tour includes a cocktail.
“We also talk about artisanal crafting of barrels and do a nosing or tasting, and relax on the porch if it’s a nice day,” she says.
7794 Patton Rd., Dane, jhenryandsons.com
URBAN AGRICULTURE FUN
Founded by MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Will Allen, Growing Power teaches people how to grow and distribute food sustainably. Its Milwaukee headquarters is the place to observe urban farming practices such as vermiculture, where worms add nutrients to soil, and aquaponics, where fish fertilize plants. A 60- to 90-minute tour of its greenhouses shows how these practices are used in growing veggies ranging from tomatoes to microgreens.
Tours happen each weekday at 1 p.m. and are tailored to the interests of the people taking them, according to urban farm manager Tammy Enevold.
“You might learn about composting or setting up an aquaponics system in your basement. Or we might talk about energy sources Growing Power uses, like geothermal power and the rain catchment system that helps power the aquaponics system,” she says.
Afterward, consider visiting the Milwaukee Public Market’s casual Green Kitchen (400 N. Water St.), a restaurant that sources ingredients from Growing Power’s Rainbow Farmers Cooperative.
5500 W. Silver Spring Dr., Milwaukee, growingpower.org
EXPLORING CRANBERRY CULTURE
Wisconsin deserves a shout-out for being the nation’s top producer of a Thanksgiving staple: cranberries. Learn how they’re grown on a free cranberry tour that starts at the Manitowish Waters Community Center each Friday at 10 a.m. (July 7 to mid-September) or at the Vilas Cranberry Company marsh (mid-September to Oct. 6).
The next 60 to 90 minutes are a cranberry crash course. It starts with a tasting, a raffle, an educational presentation and a question-and-answer session with Bob Winter, who runs Vilas Cranberry Company (660 Alder Rd.). Then it’s off to Winter’s marsh, to admire the shrubs’ flowers or berries. You’ll also visit Cranberry Square, a shop that sells cranberry-centric products ranging from cookbooks to candles.
This article originally appeared in the 2017 spring/summer issue of Experience Wisconsin magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.
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