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Growing Garlic

The old barn at Angie and Bill Mitchell’s farm has a strong case of garlic breath. Let’s call it aroma. It means the latest garlic crop has been harvested, bundled, hung, and is curing. After a month, the crop will be cleaned, graded, and packaged for sale. In October, another crop will be planted.

The Mitchells bought the rolling land near Lancaster, Wisconsin, in 2006 and named it 3 Flat Acres, but it’s actually 20 acres, and, no, it’s not flat. (Their former home in Chicago was called a three flat, where they grew a large garden.)

“We decided that the challenge of living on a farm was something we wanted to try,” Angie says. 

Since buying 3 Flat Acres, they’ve been rejuvenating and reclaiming the land as a productive farm using organic methods.

So Why Garlic?

They love it. “It is a fascinating plant with a storied history. There are so many varieties and so much potential to educate consumers. There is much more to garlic than the bulbs available at the grocery, which are likely from California or China,” Angie says.

The Mitchells are working to develop a seed stock of 25 or more hard-to-find hard-neck and soft-neck garlic varieties.

“There are varieties that roast better than others, some are recommended for garlic mashed potatoes, some are better raw, some have a bite, and some are mellow,” Angie says.

The Mitchell farm is certified organic, and approximately two thirds of the garlic sales goes to other organic farmers and growers for seed stock. 

Most of the garlic they grow for table consumption is sold online. They ship produce once a week and usually sell out each year’s harvest. They also sell wholesale to a small grocery in Platteville that specializes in local and organic foods.

“Our crop in 2014 was a mixed bag,” says Bill. “Some varieties did great; some were a total loss.” 

The Mitchells keep detailed harvest, yield, and planting records, which they review to see which varieties do well and which need to be culled. 

“We started with 30 varieties four years ago, and we are determining what to plant more of and what to say adios to,” Bill says. 

They are now looking at 15 garlic varieties that have preformed consistently.

The slogan at 3 Flat Acres is “Blending food and farm into work – life – art.” You can certainly see, smell, and taste that here.

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