Kristen Kordet is the head farmer at Blue Moon Community Farm, a small diversified CSA and market farm in Stoughton, WI, where she grows 40 different organic vegetables and raises pastured meats.
After taking an environmental science job out of college that wasn’t giving her the lifestyle she wanted, Kristen worked on a farm in upstate New York for a summer, and immediately was hooked. She worked on that farm for two years, before moving to Madison to work on a smaller farm, then eventually began renting land for her own CSA operation. She purchased the land that is now Blue Moon in 2004. The farm is home to Kristen, her husband Scott, and son Cyrus.
So all it took was one summer, and you were hooked?
Yeah, after that first summer I thought, ‘Well I really enjoy this, and I don’t know what else I’m going to do, so I’ll keep going.’
I really loved the time that I spent working on that first farm. It was really challenging in a way that I had never been challenged before — the physical demands…and (being in) an environment where I didn’t know the first thing about anything that was going on. I had never had a garden, I wasn’t a mechanic, I didn’t have carpentry skills, all these things that end up being a part of farming — I had none of them.
So that was a real humbling experience and a real challenge, and after getting over the hump of feeling overwhelmed, then I started to really love it.
What do you love about farming?
I’m kind of a busy body. There’s a lot of people who come into farming because they sort of thrive in chaos, and they thrive in many many things that have to happen at the same time, and having that juggling act go on. I’m definitely one of those people.
I really suffered when I got out of college…I really envisioned being much more directly in touch with nature and being more outside, and it just wasn’t that. So I reconnected with that aspect of work when I started working on farms.
I just need to be active, I need to be moving, I need to be outside, and that’s how my mind actually functions much better. I need that component to make me sharper
What are some of the challenges you’ve had?
I think for the farm that we’re running now, one of the challenges is resiliency. Every year, we’re trying to meet the demands of our customers on the same acreage without being able to expand.
Being a solo owner/operator with my family not being a part of the business formally (is a challenge). The farm is really demanding. It’s going to demand so much of your time, and being able to say no to it when the family needs come ahead is really a challenge.
Sometimes I think of the farm as this screaming child that only I can hear.
What’s your favorite harvest and why?
In the last few years, I’ve gotten so excited for sweet potatoes. We’ve had these just really enormous sweet potato harvests that have been so beautiful.
We undercut these vines and then we see this clump, and then you pull it up like this enormous balloon. It’s like pulling a bunch of bananas out of the ground, this enormous balloon full of sweet potatoes and you’re like ‘Wha?! I can’t believe you’re all down there!’
You should hear us in the fields… It’s kind of amazing.
What do you feel your philosophy is as a farmer?
There are some core mission pieces we have, and one of them certainly is to have CSA at the center of what we do, at the center of decisions that we make even ahead of the season and then within the season, we’re thinking about what do our members appreciate, what do they want, etc.
Having the family balance and being able to really enjoy living on the farm and not just having it be all what work needs to be done. Trying to see the beauty, and not just see the projects that are waiting for our attention.
And then definitely having it pay us a living. It’s definitely my vocation, it’s definitely my passion, but I am not doing it for free. You just need to be able to stand for yourself in what you need in exchange for your really hard-earned labor.
Everyone who comes to the farm CSA wise, yes (they) are supporting us…but CSA is also not here to subsidize poor decisions. I need to take seriously my role as a professional and do the best job that I can on the farm, and that’s how I earn my paycheck — by fulfilling that obligation to the people that have joined in this commitment with me.
What are your goals/plans/hopes looking ahead at this season and beyond?
We’re not in a growing phase anymore. We want to get better at what we’re doing and keep CSA at the center of what we’re doing.
Time will tell whether this (CSA) model perseveres amid lots of challenges in the market. And if it doesn’t, and we need to change what we do, if we can still keep that community aspect of what we’re doing, then I’m happy.
Being in direct connection with the people that are eating what we grow is really the important thing. And being able to provide and train new farmers to either start their own enterprises or be a part of the agricultural movement.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I really love what I do. My job has changed a lot in the last 14 years, and a piece of that is having so many talented people come to us to take on those managerial responsibilities… if we can keep on that train, I’ll take more summer vacations and that sort of a thing! It helps everybody when farmers get off their farms every once and awhile.
Read more about Kristen and Blue Moon Community Farm.