Robert and Summer Schulz are the owners and operators of New Traditions Homestead located in rural Hillsboro. “I have been involved in gardening since a child. Our family always had a big garden and I feel it stuck with me,” shared Robert. He started growing his own market garden when he was in high school and college and would sell to local restaurants in his hometown. “I’ve always enjoyed the process of starting, tending, and harvesting produce. Growing food is essential and it offers a sense of self-sufficiency that I believe is important for anyone to truly feel secure in life.”
The Schulz’s moved to their homestead in 2004 and started building infrastructure and growing organic produce. “Our greatest farming philosophy is to be in harmony with the land,” says Robert. “It is our intention to allow the land to stay in it’s natural state, while
producing food for the community. We work our fields with draft horses. We do not use ag-plastics in our fields (we use paper, straw, and hay mulch). All of our weed control is done by horse cultivation or by hand.”
They now have an established homestead that includes their solar powered off-grid home, about 3-4 acres of organic produce production, as well as a working blacksmithing studio where Robert teaches classes and does custom ironwork on commission.
Aside from the produce fields, Robert and Summer are grazing 25+ acres and making certified organic hay. As Summer states, “The most current exciting project we have going is working with natural water systems. We are building mini-swales, diverting rainwater to improve run-off, building small catchment ponds, etc. We feel it’s important to do our best to keep the water and nutrients on our land!”
Viroqua Food Co+op was their first retail outlet for their produce and continues to be a big market for New Traditions. Today, they offer a full selection of seasonal organic produce, including their main crops of onions, garlic, spinach, kale, collards, chard, winter squash, parsley, cilantro, beets, potatoes, tomatoes, and ornamental gourds. Robert’s favorite crop to grow and eat is garlic. “It’s one of the first crops I grew. I have a variety I’ve been growing for over 20 years. It’s beautiful, easy to grow, tasty, and healthy.” His favorite way to eat garlic is simple – raw on anything.
Beyond being dedicated to honoring the natural world in how they farm, Robert and Summer are committed to being an important part of their community in rural Hillsboro. As their farm sales have increased steadily over the years, they realized that they could also help their neighboring farmers. They have started aggregating produce and other farm products
from neighbors and bringing them to market with their own produce. “It has become an awesome example of how working with your neighbors can be a great benefit for everyone involved. It’s playing a role as a village member to benefit more than ourselves. We can support more farms than just our own, while offering
more diverse product to the broader community.” Additionally, in this model, New Traditions and neighboring farms do not need to overwork their land to produce the volume of product they are able to market. It allows multiple small farms to keep their fields and production at a smaller level, which spreads out the intensity of growing food across the land.
This fall, New Traditions and neighboring farms are coming together to offer winter storage shares of local foods at the end of the season. The share will include options of potatoes, onions, garlic, winter squash, beets, carrots, turnips, maple syrup, honey, and meat (beef and pork). Get in touch with Robert if you are interested at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The next time you see New Traditions Homestead products in the VFC Produce section, be sure to pick some up – and know that you are supporting Robert and Summer, and their dedication to farming in harmony with the land.