Around the Farm Table: Something Sweet in the City

November 14, 2019 Susannah Brooks Leave a Comment

It’s Thursday in Wisconsin! This week, PBS Wisconsin’s Cultural Affairs unit manager Samantha Nash joins producer and videographer (and nascent cattle wrangler) Colin Crowley for a behind-the-scenes look at the fifth episode of Around the Farm Table.

Beekeeper Drew Kaiser pulls a board from the frame of a beehive.

“Local Food with Local Friends” premieres 7:30 p.m. tonight on PBS Wisconsin. Inga cooks a meal made entirely of ingredients produced by local friends: an urban beekeeper whose hives are located in Eau Claire yards and gardens; a Neillsville family farming grass-fed beef; and a friend growing garlic near Fairchild. She puts them all together in a barbecue hosted for her friends at the farm.

Read on to learn about the perils of apian videography!

The Buzz about Local Foods
Colin Crowley and Samantha Nash

For this week’s episode of Around the Farm Table, host Inga Witscher set out with the challenge of preparing a meal for some local friends using ingredients that were produced within a 50-mile radius of her farm in Osseo.

One of our favorite ingredients from our local trips was a jar of honey purchased from Drew Kaiser, an Eau Claire beekeeper. Drew and his wife, Ellen Sorenson, worked together to start their honeybee business and to petition the city of Eau Claire to permit backyard beekeeping.

While we usually think of beekeeping as an agricultural activity best suited for farms, forests and orchards, urban beekeeping offers some compelling advantages. Drew’s hives are placed in residential yards around the city of Eau Claire.

Drew manages a beehive in an Eau Claire backyard, full of the usual garden plants as well as a more exotic houseplant.

“Bees do a little bit better in the city,” he explained. “There’s a bit more diversity in the types of flowers blooming.”

The city neighborhoods’ well-tended gardens provide a reliable source of food for the bees for the whole growing season. They also lend a variety of flavors to the bees’ honey, which is conveniently sold at – among other places – a local tavern. In this case, it’s the legendary Eau Claire watering hole The Joynt.

“There is nothing more Wisconsin than getting your local honey at your local bar,” said Inga.

“We think so, too,” said Drew, with a laugh.

Every episode presents new challenges for the ATFT crew, and filming the bees certainly fits that bill.

Drew lights a bee smoker to calm the bees before he tends to one of his hives.

Operating a camera requires steady breathing and deliberate maneuvering under the best conditions. Sudden, sharp movements lead to jerky, disorienting footage that can make viewers feel like they are on the high seas during a storm surge. But filming in close proximity to 60,000 hard-working urban bees has a way of reiterating the importance of the Zen-like art of videography.

As we set up our cameras, Drew suggested that we remain calm and move slowly to avoid triggering a defensive response from the hive.

“You have to learn to let go of some anxiety and move slowly and consciously,” he said.

Keeping bees isn’t for everyone, but anyone can take steps to aid pollinators, including planting blooming gardens, being selective with pesticide use and supporting local producers who help care for bees.

Inga’s next stop was considerably less scary, as she picked up steaks from Haly and Joe Schultz’s family on the fifth-generation Marth Homestead Farm near Neillsville. The family keeps their operations small and personal, raising grass-fed Murray Gray beef cattle and selling beef to customers directly off the farm.

Finally, Inga checked in with her old friend Nick D’Huyvetter, a dairy farmer at Fountainhead Farm near Fairchild, who is diversifying his farming operation by cultivating garlic.

“Everything kind of works together and expands your knowledge,” he said.

All of these great local products came together at a picnic outside Inga’s house that brought local friends together to enjoy local food. We hope you’ll join us in enjoying the bounty of the land around us – and at the farm table!