Chris and Juli McGuire are growing vegetables, apples, and three children at Two Onion Farm, their small organic farm in Belmont, Wisconsin. For more about them, please visit 5 Minutes on the Farm on Facebook. See below for Juli’s favorite seasonal recipes or download this PDF.
CHRIS: “I certainly have a really immense and abiding passion for growing plants. That’s something I really love. I love their diversity, their beauty. I love to eat them. What makes them really special to me is that they have their own life within them. That’s what separates farming from other professions. I can walk away from the field for a few days and come back on Monday, and the plants have grown on their own. The carpenter or computer programmer doesn’t walk away and find that their computer code has written itself or a house has built itself. That’s what I love, and it’s really amazing. To go out in the field and walk down a row and just see all change and the abundant life, leaves growing and flowers opening and fruit growing. It never ceases to amaze me and awe me. It’s really miraculous. I can’t compare it to almost anything else in my life.
“On the flip side of it, we’re not just growing plants. We’re also feeding and nourishing people — many of whom we’ve met and we know. Knowing that the blood that’s coursing in their veins was nourished by the food that came from our farm is really awe inspiring and gratifying.
“I actually grew up in New York City, not on a farm, but my maternal grandparents farmed in Illinois and I used to spend my summers there. That’s where I got interested in farming and growing food — just hanging out with my grandpa and working with him. I started gardening at home as well. I went to college to study horticulture and got interested specifically in trying to grow fruits and vegetables organically for a local market. After college, I considered a few different professions. I met Juli and got married, and after a few years, we decided that this was what we really wanted to do. We started saving up money and bought our farm in Belmont. I went on working in Madison for a year or two after we moved here. Since then, we’ve been farming full time. My last job, before we started farming, was working for Epic in Madison as a technical support person and saving up money as fast as we could to farm.”
JULI: “He and I met in upstate New York. I grew up in Hungary, in Europe, and did not really imagine living in the United States for more than a year, or to raise a family or live on a farm. I grew up in the capital, in Budapest, so I am a city girl. I followed Chris because we decided to have a life together. At that point in my life, I would have followed him anywhere.
“I did not have anybody in my immediate family farming, but we all come from a farming background. You can go back a few generations and you will find somebody who lived off the land. It’s the same with me, too. So I did not have any previous experience with farming, but I really grew to love it. I realized I really love to work with my body, and be in my body, and be outside. That was something that when you are in school for 16 years of your life, and live in a city, you don’t really often do. So I really enjoy all the outside aspects of it. I love to plant the seeds and work with the seedlings and then plant them out, see them grow, and weed and harvest and wash the produce. That is my angle. That is what I love about it. I don’t do much about soil health or figuring out how to grow things; that’s Chris’ job.
“We have three children: 14, 10 and 8 years old. And we homeschool them. Living on the farm for me and for us is not just about our job, that we grow produce and sell it to people. It’s really the place where we raise our children, where we play and work and learn together.”
Charred Sweet Peppers Potato Chowder
(Juli’s new favorite soup! Makes 2 servings.)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1½ cups red sweet peppers, chopped
1 cup yellow onion, chopped
5 oz. russet potato, peeled and chopped
¼ – ½ cup vegetable broth
1 cup milk
dash of cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tsp butter
¼ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt (optional)
1/ Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add peppers, and cook, uncovered, 10-15 minutes or until charred, stirring frequently.
2/ Add onions, and cook 5-6 minutes, or until soft and golden brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in potatoes and broth. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, 12 minutes or until potatoes are very tender.
3/ Coarsely mash with a potato masher. Add milk and, if using , cayenne pepper; heat through.
4/ Remove from heat; stir in butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Top servings with cheese, yogurt, and/or bacon, if desired.
Honey-Soaked Quinoa Salad with Apples
(Makes 4 servings)
¼ cup honey
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp lime juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup water
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
¼ tsp salt
1 cup apple, cored and chopped into small pieces (or red grape, halved)
½ cup whole cashews, coarsely chopped
½ cup dried apricot, cut into thin slivers
¼ cup thinly sliced onion
1 head of lettuce, torn
1/ For honey vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk together first 7 ingredients. Drizzle in oil, whisking constantly, until well mixed.
2/ In a medium saucepan combine the water, quinoa, and ¼ tsp salt. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until liquid absorbed. Remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes.
3/ Fluff quinoa with fork. In a large bowl combine quinoa, apples, cashews, apricots, and onion; toss to mix. Add lettuce; drizzle with ½ cup of the honey vinaigrette. Toss again. Pass remaining honey vinaigrette around at serving.
Carrot Celeriac Soup
(Makes 6 small servings)
3 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp curry powder
6-8 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
½-1 celeriac, peeled and minced (depending on the size of celeriac)1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt
1/ Cook oil and curry powder over medium heat in a large saucepan, stirring constantly, until curry becomes fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
2/ Add carrots, celeriac, and onion and stir until they are coated with oil. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
3/ Add broth, cover pot, bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are very tender. Let soup cool a bit before next step.
4/ Working in small batches, puree the soup in a food processor, return pureed soup to a pot and warm it over medium heat until heated through. Season with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Buy local! Your food dollars can be little green soldiers for good. Join a CSA, shop at a farmers’ market, or support a retailer that pays local farmers fair prices (such as Willy Street Co-op in Madison).
Please visit the Dane County Farmers’ Market to see what’s for sale at local farmers’ markets this week. Wisconsin’s Farm Fresh Atlas lists farmers’ markets, u-picks, and CSA farms across Wisconsin.
Podcast credits: Production, reporting & photography by Julie Garrett; theme music by Cathryn Herlihey; 5 Minutes on the Farm logo by Katie Hess.