Stonecroft Farm, Grafton, is trying to grow lavender, aronia and walnuts

Kristine M. Kierzek

Mike Trinklein has planted hundreds of trees and plants, only to see them fail. It’s all about pursuing permaculture and perennials.

Stonecroft Farms, Grafton, is not your typical fruit and vegetable farm. He grows aronia, peaches, pears, honey berries, quince, serviceberry, walnuts, lavender and more.

Every year and every harvest is a lesson learned, all chronicled on its website. America’s Test Kitchen recently featured its quest for local food on its “Proof” podcast.

His first failure was 100 chestnuts, almost all of which were destined to be dinner for hungry deer. It was a lesson learned. His apple trees did not take. He patiently awaits the fruits of the plum, peach and pear trees. He harvested exactly one nectarine.

So when his lavender took off and produced warmly last summer, he was more than a little excited. Trinklein’s approach is patience and perseverance to build permaculture. Of course, success is seasonal when it comes to farming, and he couldn’t do it if he didn’t have another job to support himself.

Trinklein works as a filmmaker in addition to his experimental farm in Grafton, where he lives with his wife, Lynne.

Last year, he sold his fresh lavender by the roadside and plans to do it again this summer. In addition, Stonecroft Farms products will be available at the new DreamPort Harvest Market, 223 N. Franklin Ave., in Port Washington. A company of Dream apple farm Peggy and Ed Callahan, the store will feature a variety of products from local farms and growers, including Bossie Cow Farm, Victory Garden Farm and WinterSpring Farm, as well as Dream Apple Farm.

What drives him

The way we get our food isn’t ideal, and there is a better way. We only have to listen to nature to know what she wants to give us in Wisconsin. …there is so much more adventure, variety and discovery that can be part of our food lives.

Stonecroft is spray-free

I don’t spray anything. Part of it is that I’m a bit lazy. When I saw all the machines, it’s a lot of work. I want to grow things that don’t require spraying. My only attempts to control nature, I mulch things, put up fences to keep deer away, nets to keep birds away.

patience pays

Last year I was finally able to declare that I had earned an income from farming, which was kind of fun.

I sold some chokeberry at Slowpokes Local Food (in Grafton, now closed). The nuts I’m famous for didn’t have a harvest, but I planted all the other nuts. They are long term plants. I planted plum trees five years ago, so in theory I could have some this year. I had a nectarine last year. Just one. … Bottom line, most of it is unripe, so far, just aronia and lavender and a few other berries.

Getting to Grafton

I grew up in Cedarburg. My parents had a big garden, a cheap way to get food. We didn’t think it was healthier or tastier, it was just economically a thing people did in the 1960s. …

When you’re a filmmaker, you sit in front of a computer all day. You want to get away from that. You want to go outside. I moved to Idaho and taught film, lived there for 20 years, then moved back to my hometown in 2004. We had a garden and I loved being in nature. It was the beginning. We found this property in Grafton. Let’s grow things.

Permaculture plan

I try to plant everything possible and see what works. There is a school of agriculture, permaculture, one of the gurus Mark Shepard is from Wisconsin. The philosophy is that you see what will grow on your land and let nature dictate your food source rather than force the food onto your plate. I had a lot of failures and some successes.

The first thing he planted

A plant called aronia, a purple super berry. I planted several dozen on my property in Cedarburg before moving here. It is really prolific, like little purple blueberries.

Why isn’t everyone growing them? Because while they’re healthy, they’re astringently tart. I spent years trying to find the magic recipe to make everyone love them! The jam is delicious. The problem is you give someone a berry and they bite into it and spit it out. It’s not sweet. I have recipes on my website

Educate the eaters

Originally, I was going to plant a lot of aronia. … The biggest problem is that people don’t know what to do with it and how to cook and eat it. ….I made wine with aronia, which is really good. I was in Poland in 2017. They make a lot of wine from aronia, it’s in jams and soft drinks. I’m surprised there isn’t more culture here.

Lesson learned

I thought I was going to be a chestnut farmer. …I planted 100 chestnut trees in 2017. The deer ate them all.…

The three big names in Wisconsin permaculture are chestnuts, hazelnuts, and black walnuts. They grow here and produce food, and they are natural in the area.

After chestnuts, I’ve probably had 100 different varieties of plants, all just trying to see what works and what doesn’t and what people like and don’t like. Some are really exotic like sea berries, then different kinds like aronia and honey berries, elderberries, currants, different nuts, like hazelnuts, then peaches, cherries, plums. I am also trying dried beans this year.

most popular plant

Lavender. It’s a huge crowd pleaser. I sell it by the roadside here, and I sell it. I grew 500 plants in the first year, 2019, and every plant died. … After that, I was lucky, I have a few thousand plants in the ground. This is the core of what I sell at DreamPort, lavender products.

Fork. Spoon. Life. explores the daily relationship that local notables (both within and outside the food community) have with food. To suggest future personalities to profile, email [email protected]

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