Q&A: Inga Witscher talks all-new ‘Around the Farm Table Celebrates Small Farms’ special airing Dec. 7
November 13, 2023 Leave a Comment
Around the Farm Table returns to PBS Wisconsin with a celebration of small farms and specialty makers in Around the Farm Table Celebrates Small Farms.
In the all-new special premiering 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, host Inga Witscher takes a journey around the state to visit farmers and producers who are finding new ways to preserve traditional agricultural practices. Along the way, she meets with a sheep farmer, a maple syrup producer, a beekeeper and members of several small family farms before hosting a community celebration on her own farm.
Ahead of the premiere, PBS Wisconsin spoke with Witscher about the new special.
What inspired this special?
One of our goals with Around the Farm Table has always been to really celebrate small farmers and family farmers, and show people what is happening on these farms. Every year in September, we host a small farm festival at my farm, a little bit of a makers market, a day for people to come out to the farm and be at the farm and experience what we get to experience every day. I wanted to tie in an episode where we could celebrate some of these farms that we’ve featured before on past episodes, some friends that farm that also go to different makers markets with me, and I wanted to center it around our event in September and really show people how much fun we have there.
This special features a variety of producers, from a wool farmer to a fifth-generation dairy farmer. What ties all of them together?
Community. We all need each other. It’s so fun to be part of a farming community because we all help each other out. We’re all discussing ideas together, we’re all sharing what works for us, what doesn’t work for us, and we’re all kind of thinking outside of the box a little bit. All of the folks we featured in this episode are not necessarily traditional agriculture in the form of corn and beans and large dairy production. We’re all thinking about agriculture in a different way, kind of reinventing our farms.
What would you say to encourage consumers to buy local?
Everyone eats. Everyone needs a farmer all the time, and I really would encourage people to go and find those farmers in their communities. That could be from visiting the farmers market, joining a Community Support Agriculture, volunteering at a farm, really getting to know those farmers in their community. Even if they’re buying pork once a month from a local farm, that makes a huge difference in that farmer’s budgeting and everything. Really understand that we all need each other. Let’s help support each other in all of these ways.
Do you have a favorite behind-the-scenes memory from filming this special?
Filming is always so much fun. My dad and I created this show together, so we also get to film together. I have the best crew in television as far as I’m concerned. They’re just fantastic. One thing that is so funny to see behind the scenes is that we always transform the inside of my living room into a backdrop that looks like I’m sitting in a hay barn. What has to happen is we have to bring in 30 small bales of hay from the hay barn into the living room, and we always do that as a crew.
The crew are not on farms every day like I am throwing hay bales, so they always volunteer. They set their cameras down, they volunteer to throw all the bales onto my skid steer, I pull the skid steer to my house and they unload them and they put everything as a backdrop inside my living room. Then, after we’re done with those camera shots when I’m talking people to the next segment, then we tear down the cameras, we tear down all the hay bales, they throw the hay bales outside and they do it with such joy because they didn’t have to grow up doing it like so many of us in Wisconsin grew up as kids having to stack hay bales all summer long. Now they will even clean the house for me when we’re done. It’s so fun to see how excited they get about these little farm tasks that we get to do when we’re at my farm.
And we get to see you do something new on a farm in this episode.
When I went to Melissa Todd’s house last winter, I got to shear a sheep with her sheep shearer. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I had no idea that sheep could be that wiggly, and that they are not polite when they’re getting their hair cut. They move around and thrash around, and I had to secure it with my legs and arms while using a very, very sharp tool to get the fiber off while all these people are watching. It was so much fun. The sheep shearer said to me, “Okay, you gotta stick to your day job.”
You’ve been hosting Around the Farm Table for a decade. How does that milestone feel?
As a farmer, 90 percent of farmers have to have off-farm income, so doing this show is my other job. I’m so grateful that this gets to be my life – that I get to go spend time on these farms and talking with these farmers and learning and becoming friends. My whole community of farmers and support has grown so much over the last 10 years of doing this show. I love to be able to connect people back to these folks. It’s kind of funny, but if I ever go on vacation, I just want to go on other farms. So, being able to do that with this show, I’m so grateful.
What do you hope viewers take away from watching this special?
Wisconsin is so vibrant in the agriculture community. We have so much going on. We’re the number one producer of goat milks, sheep milk, horseradish and ginseng, for example. And, wherever you go in Wisconsin, there are communities of local farmers that are growing interesting crops, dried beans, honey, all of these interesting things. To be able to go and start a conversation with these folks in their own communities, learning from them and learning the passion of why they’re doing this, I hope people will be inspired to visit a makers market, to visit a farmers market and really get to know the people who are growing their food.