When Josiah Robben and Joe Lopez decided they wanted to upgrade their growing operation two years ago, they went all in. Moving from 2 acres to 20 acres, suddenly they had more space, more farmable land and more opportunity to grow. But uprooting a farm is no simple task and the move came with its own unique set of challenges. Yet now in their second growing season in the new “forever farm” location, the plants are growing stronger than ever.
Josiah has been growing and selling vegetables and flowers for 15 seasons in Door County, following in the footsteps of his grandparents’ self-sustaining family farm in rural northern Minnesota. “In the early years of the farm, I’d talk to my grandma and get growing tips,” Josiah said, “and I would tell her about using all organic practices, until finally she said, ‘I don’t know what you mean by this word “organic” – what is that? You mean just regular farming?’”
While Robbens Nest Farm is not technically certified organic, the farm does operate primarily using organic practices and looks to be as sustainable as possible. Solar power is incorporated in the hoop house fans and drip irrigation systems are installed to efficiently water the plants and reduce water waste. Located on a prior corn field, the soil has required some TLC to begin growing the productive rows of varied crops you’ll see today.
Josiah and Joe are the primary caretakers, along with one field hand to assist with planting, weeding and harvesting. And you won’t want to miss meeting the resident rescue dog: a little caramel-colored pup named Judy. She loves to be outside while the farm is being tended to, but prefers to hide out underneath any pile of wood or materials earning herself the nickname “Junkyard Judy.”
The farm grows both crops and flowers that are sold either via the CSA (community-supported agriculture) shares, at the Sister Bay Farmers Market or at their own roadside farm stand each Saturday and Sunday (4724 Mathey Road in Sturgeon Bay). If you are looking to eat local, the CSA shares offer the most value, and the farm is currently seeking to sign-up more members now that they have the expanded growing capabilities. Weekly, bi-weekly or pay-as-you-go memberships are available, with pick-up at the farm or optional delivery.
CSA members benefit from more than just the bounty of veggies and blooms; as a member you are encouraged to stop by the farm anytime to cut your own fresh herbs. The farm acreage itself is open to members as well, with several trails spanning the full 20 acres. Last winter a member even brought his four-year-old son to hike the property for an inaugural rabbit hunt.
“Members love to stop by with their kids and just let them explore,” said Josiah. “When our friends come up from Madison with younger children, they just love it — they aren’t used to having so much space.”
In the center of the property grows a maple tree surrounded by young fruit trees in memory of long-time friend and business partner Klaudia Crawford, who was the former chef and owner of Klaud’s Kitchen in Sister Bay. “Klaudia loved fruit. So we’ve got pear, apple, cherry and peach trees,” said Joe, “and hopefully they’ll produce enough so we can use that fruit in the CSA shares.”
With beautiful food, flowers and fun for all ages, Robbens Nest Farm is an inviting community sustaining more than great local produce; Josiah and Joe have taken the title “community-supported agriculture” full circle by offering support for the community right back. “We’ve hosted events where groups have come to cut their own bouquets and have cocktails and we teach them how to create arrangements,” said Josiah, “and we hope to start doing more of that.”