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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finding Love in a Ditch....

There’s a commonly held belief that floats around our great badger state that enviros and farmers are always at loggerheads and that’s just the way it is. Never the tilled soil and the hugged tree should meet, so to speak. Too often, this is a damned accurate assumption….especially amongst the more commercially focused members of the agribusiness community and even the more rigid members of the tree-hugging society. “Oh lack-a-day,” some will say, “it’s just the way of things…best to accept it and prepare for scuffling.”

This last Saturday, a group of folks said “Pish!” to that idea and gathered at Justin (on the right) and Lynn Isherwood’s farm near Plover for the River Alliance’s second annual BBQ on the Banks. It’s important to note that the Isherwoods are not your 15-acre and a quaint barn type of gentleman (or gentlewoman) farmer…they’re an honest to goodness commercial operation farming several hundred acres of potatoes and canning vegetables in the unique central sands region of the state. And they’re true stewards of the land….and the water. They understand the dangers of turning a blind eye to the level of water usage needed to grow a potato in Wisconsin’s central region, and work hard to find a balance between their usage and the groundwater needs of the area.

And don’t worry reader…there’s a river connection too. As with most of the farmland in that area, the Isherwoods’ fields are bordered by “laterals,” otherwise known as drainage ditches. What many folks don't know is that these ditches once were fine cold water streams teeming with trout. Seems that about 100 years ago, town planners thought the drainage capabilities of these streams would be greatly enhanced by dredging and straightening them. Maybe, maybe not. But nowadays there are those who envision a return of these trout havens to their natural, meandering courses. J. Isherwood is one of those, and river rats who attended BBQ on the Banks on July 17 got to see his efforts to do just that.

As with most River Alliance events, this outing mixed lessons with lively fun, treating the attendees to Justin and Lynn’s “earthy” wisdom and sound farming techniques while sampling some of the area’s nicest products. Offerings included beer from Central Waters Brewing, salads from Adventure 212 Bistro and Café 27 (who threw in some very fine croissants too), as well as the Isherwoods’ version of the famous (infamous?) Moore Barn pulled pork sandwich (it’s difficult to dislike a sandwich with its own mythology…even if there is suspicion that said mythology was cooked up by Justin himself). The highlight of the feast, though, was some of our hosts’ red potatoes, fresh from the ground. Lynn suggested a bit of butter, salt and pepper for the melt in your mouth tubers, but to be truthful, those windows needed no curtains.

A good time was had by all, hay wagons were boarded, corn silk was tasted and perhaps some current mythology was dented. As they (almost) say in the song…"The River Rat and the Farmer should be friends…”

With more folks like Justin and Lynn, that might just happen.

Want to see more pics from the event? Head to . All photos by Lia Vellardita.

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