In this blog post I am interviewing Andrew Hollister of Hollister Farms. Andrew and his family produce local food naturally on a farm in southern Lancaster County and market it through a number of methods, including a couple of local farmers markets. Follow along with this photo blog as we tour the farm.
Andrew takes his meat and produce to the Hickam Farmers Market on Saturday morning, which he helped get organized this year. He also participates in the Bennet Farmers Market in eastern Lancaster County on Wednesday afternoons.
The Hollisters purchased this high tunnel with the assistance of the NRCS EQIP Program. It has allowed them to grow a variety of different vegetables almost all year round. One of the more uncommon vegetables they grow is the tomatillo, shown in the first row of plants in this photo. The high tunnel allows them to get a jump on the market in spring and produce cool-season crops into the late fall/early winter. It also provides a duplicate of the crops grown outside in their garden.
Andrew plants primarily heirloom plants on their farm. They are certified naturally grown. Here is some kohlrabi he planted in the high tunnel.
Beets are another vegetable Andrew likes to grow. Here are some golden beets. Notice the newspapers on the ground. These are used as a mulch in the high tunnel and help hold moisture in the soil.
Andrew likes to be as efficient as possible. Here are some eggplants intercropped with tomatoes in the high tunnel. Other vegetables he grows in the high tunnel include: peppers, basal, onions, squash, cucumbers and even some sweet corn.
Andrew and his dad constructed this greenhouse last year. This year they used it to start plants for their own farm, but also grew vegetable starts to sell, providing another source of income. They have sold plants to Prairie Pine Farms, Community Crops and a group of moms in both Omaha and Lincoln.
This photo shows an outside view of the greenhouse and raised beds in Andrew’s perennial garden. Some of the plants grown in the perennial garden include: lavender, herbs, oregano, rosemary and Egyptian onions.
Andrew also plants several crops in his irrigated outside garden. Notice the drip tape across the raised beds in the garden. Andrew plants broccoli, green beans, cucumber, basil, peppers and okra in this garden. Produce is sold at farmers markets, on the farm, on Facebook at his on-line store and through the Nebraska Food Coop.
Livestock and poultry are also a major component of Hollister Farms. This pasture is where Andrews ducks and geese forage during the day.
Andrew’s flock of water fowl in this photo. He collects duck eggs and sells them to restaurants and individuals. There is an excellent market for duck eggs. He also has a few geese that will be sold later this year as possibly someone’s holiday main dish this fall/winter.
Andrew and his dad continually are upgrading facilities. Here are the chicken coops for his small flock. He collects and sells chicken eggs as well to several customers.
Rhode Island Reds are a major breed in the laying flock of chickens on Hollister Farm. I caught a photo of several hens inside the coop.
Swine are also a big part of Andrew’s operation. He sells a significant amount of pork to his customers. Here one of his sows forages on some waste food that Andrew obtains from Whole Foods in Lincoln.
Here a sow cools off in the hog wallow. This is very important because hogs can not sweat and they need this as a way to cool off, especially in the severe heat we have experienced this month.
As you can see Andrew’s swine herd enjoys some feed on this warn summer morning. He will have several hogs to sell for meat later this year.
Andrew actually started out raising goats and sheep. He has a nice flock of meat goats, which have a strong percentage of the meat goat breed Boer in them. There is a good demand for goat meat in the Lincoln area too.
Goats can go out to the pasture to graze too on the Hollister Farm.
The final component of the Hollister Farming Operation is the flock of Katahdin sheep they have on their farm. These are hair sheep, meaning they do not have to sheer them and are produced for their meat.
This concludes the photo blog of Hollister Farm. I want to thank Andrew for his time and allowing me to interview him and also take photos of the farm. As you can see the Hollisters have a very diverse farming operation with many moving parts. It will be interesting to see how this farm develops over the years. In the mean time, be sure to look for Hollister Farms at the local farmers markets, on Facebook, on the Nebraska Food Coop or just stop by their farm near Princeton, NE. They are another source of local food in southeast Nebraska.
In my fourth blog post this year I am interviewing Clint Wostrel of Union Orchard. Clint’s family purchased Union Orchard and he is working under the mentorship of Vaughn Hammond. Clint took the Farm Beginnings class last year and is now learning about running the orchard. Following this interview we will have a photo blog of the orchard.
Union Orchard was formerly owned by the University of Nebraska. In 1917 the University of Nebraska purchased 80 acres and developed the University Fruit Farm, which was a demonstration fruit farm that was in operation for 45 years. In 1961 it was sold to the Lechner Family and became Lechner Family Union Orchard. In 2011 it was purchased by Terry and Carla Wostrel and is now being developed into Union Orchard.
The Wostrel Family began farming in Nebraska in 1875 and they hope to continue this tradition with Union Orchard which is located right off of Highway 75 just north of Nebraska City with easy access from both the urban centers of Omaha and Lincoln.
The four photos above illustrate the wide range of products Union Orchard is marketing in their store located on site at the orchard. They sell a variety of canned products, jellies and jams, plus all kinds of baked goods, treats and beverages at the snack bar. The orchard also offers wine tasting for visitors.
When the Wostrel family purchased the orchard they knew they would need to essentially replace all the apple trees. Above are some of the trees they have replaced over the past 3-4 years. Notice the Mason Bee Domicile (home) in the center of the photo. This is to attract solitary bees to help with pollination of the apples. Union Orchard also uses Coddling Moth Traps to monitor Coddling Moth movement in the orchard. Union Orchard utilizes this IPM ( Integrated Pest Management) tool and other sustainable practices whenever they can in their operation.
Union Orchard plants mostly dwarf trees which start bearing in 2-3 years. Notice the apples on this year’s trees. They were fortunate to avoid a frost this spring which could have severely reduced their apple crop for 2016. Union Orchard plants several varieties of apples and offers a You-Pick operation for people interested in picking their own apples.
Union Orchard has Gazebos at strategic locations on the orchard for pickers to relax and rest while they are picking various types of produce.
In early June, Union Orchard opened up for You-Pick Strawberries. From the photos above you can see they have a large patch of strawberries which have excellent fruit on them. I can attest to that, as I purchased a large quantity of berries on my visit last week and have been enjoying them ever since. Just eating them alone or on cereal or ice cream is a treat. They have a Strawberry Festival scheduled for June 18th.
Another very productive spring crop at Union Orchard is Rhubarb. Last month they had a Rhubarb Festival. While rhubarb is available fresh at the orchard, it is also made into value added baked products, i.e. rhubarb pies and crisp. Union Orchard is also looking to have rhubarb from their orchard used in local wines as well.
Earlier this spring asparagus was another popular fresh item at the orchard.
Previously I mentioned sustainable practices are being used on Union Orchard. Cereal rye was planted as a cover crop in the fall of 2014, allowed to go reseed itself in 2015, came up in the fall of 2015 and provided excellent cover and weed suppression for new apple plantings earlier this spring. I featured Union Orchard’s management technique for weed control in my blog on cover crops earlier this year.
Orchard crew planting cider apple trees into the shredded down rye cover crop in the spring of 2016. Eventually several thousand cider apple trees will be planted and Union Orchard hopes to develop a hard cider operation in 5-6 years.
A grass/clover cover crop is being utilized until more trees are planted into this section of Union Orchard. This cover crop provides excellent cover for erosion control, adds nitrogen to the soil with the legumes and flowers for the bees to pollinate. These species also provide good weed control without the use of added herbicides.
A new fruit introduced to the orchard is Elder Berries. These grow wild all across Nebraska and can be very prolific berry producers. Berries from the Elderberry fruit will be used for jams, jellies and wine produced at the orchard and in cooperation with local wineries.
Grapes are another crop that are being grown and planted at Union Orchard. They have varieties grown only to make wine, a variety that can be used for wine or table grapes, and a variety that is only used for table grapes.
Fall is the primary tourist time of year for Union Orchard. They are focused at making it a destination for families to visit. Along with their apples, they will have a large field of all kinds of pumpkins in the field above and also a Corn Maze for entertainment. With all the different products and activities, plus different types of food and drink, Union Orchard is an up and coming destination to visit this fall and in years to come.