Putting together a holiday meal is a lot of work. Before you even get to prep and cook all the dishes, you have to shop for ingredients. While many people go to supermarkets and grocery stores for one-stop shopping, others prefer to get their food from a nearby source: local farms.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, there are more than 64,000 farms located throughout the state of Wisconsin. With all of those farms to choose from, you’re sure to find the ingredients you need to complete your Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and/or Hanukkah recipes.
While some local farms offer a wide variety of produce, meat, and dairy products, others specialize in just one food item. Make an adventure out of traveling to several nearby farms, or find a new favorite that specializes in an ingredient that’s crucial for your holiday dish.
From main courses like brisket and protein to essential ingredients like cheese and eggs, here are some local farms throughout the state to shop for your holiday ingredients rather than deal with the supermarket crowds.
Brisket is enjoyed during many Jewish holidays, including Hanukkah, when it typically serves a standout dish during the eight-day celebration. Traditionally, Jewish brisket is braised and served with vegetables like carrots and potatoes.
If you’re looking for truly farm-to-table quality meat, head out to Moldenhauer Farms, a family-owned farm that’s a 50-minute drive from downtown Milwaukee. The Hartford-based farm sells a trimmed brisket as well as five other roast options. If you’re hungry for more, Moldenhauer also sells steaks, pork, and snacks like beef jerky.
Very few holiday dessert tables are complete without an apple pie, but apples are also used in many dishes throughout the holiday season. You can pair the sweet fruit with salty ingredients in a Thanksgiving stuffing, turn them into an applesauce to eat with latkes for Hanukkah, or you add them to a Christmas fruitcake.
One of the most action-packed spots to pick apples (and peaches when they’re in season) near Milwaukee is Apple Holler in Sturtevant. Located directly off Interstate 94, the orchard’s apple-picking season only lasts a few months through the summer and fall. It’s open year round, however, offering sleigh rides in the winter and serving up apple-inspired, seasonal cuisine in both its restaurant and bakery.
Once the weather starts to chill, it seems like everything suddenly becomes pumpkin-flavored. While you can stock up on artificially flavored snacks, it’s a lot of fun to whip up your own cookies, chili, soup, or pie made from farm-sourced pumpkin.
While many pumpkin farms close at the end of October, Pleasant Valley Acres in Sullivan stays open through November. The farm, which is a 45-minute drive west from Milwaukee, is open daily from sun up until sun down and sells more than 20 varieties of pumpkins. The farm additionally sells several types of squash, making it a convenient stop for autumnal ingredients.
Corn might be a popular side dish throughout summer, but it’s also a staple in many holiday meals. It’s an ideal Thanksgiving side on its own, but you also can’t go wrong bringing cornbread or cornmeal dumplings to a Kwanzaa celebration. You can even try making Hanukkah latkes with corn instead of potatoes if you feel like mixing the classic dish up a bit.
Rather than buying canned corn from the grocery store, go for something different by purchasing Indigenous corn for your holiday feasts. Yowela Farms, located within a 30-minute drive southeast of Madison, is Indigenous-owned and grows several different varieties of colorful Indigenous corn. The farm’s corn varieties include Oneida White corn, which the farm recommends using in soups and salads or grinding to make cornbread; as well as Bear Island Flint, which features multi-colored cobs.
Whether they’re mashed, baked, twice-baked, or grated and turned into a crispy latke, potatoes are a crucial side dish to create the perfect holiday dinner. The farmers at Mythic Farm in Blue Mounds have been growing potatoes in the state since 1995. The farm is a 40-minute drive west of Madison, located in Bluff Country. There’s more than 15 varieties of potatoes grown at the farm and they’re all certified organic. The potatoes are available to be picked up at the farm or they can be ordered online and shipped.
Some people might run a 5K race on Thanksgiving while others stay curled up in their pajamas watching football all day. Some people might have small, intimate Thanksgiving dinners while others have massive celebrations with every member of their extended family. No matter how you celebrate, there’s one thing that’s almost always certain: There will be a turkey on the table.
Green Fire Farm in Monticello sells whole turkeys priced by the pound, but the family-owned farm sells so much more, too. That includes extra-large turkeys for extra-large celebrations as well as ground turkey, smoked turkey legs, turkey broth, and turkey wings.
St. Croix and Dunn counties
You might not be whipping up scrambled eggs for a holiday feast, but they are used in an abundance of recipes—from desserts like pies and cookies to being used as a binding agent in stuffing, or maybe to add richness to challah bread for Hanukkah.
As a poultry farm, Horst’s Homegrown Poultry in Bay City sells free-range eggs from both its chickens and ducks. Now that the weather is colder, egg laying among the farm’s animals decreases, but Horst’s Homegrown Poultry continues to sell them onsite.
You’re probably not having pancakes for a holiday dinner (or maybe you’ve just been inspired to start a new holiday tradition), but that doesn’t mean you won’t be using syrup. Sweet potato casserole is a popular holiday dish, but if you’re not a fan of the marshmallow topping, try candied sweet potatoes instead. The dish, which features soft and buttery sweet potatoes, uses just a few ingredients: sweet potatoes, brown sugar, vanilla extract, seasonings like cinnamon or nutmeg, and syrup, which you can find locally.
Rising Sun Farm and Orchard in River Falls sells syrup that’s made onsite as well as pork and several types of vegetables. Depending on when they’re in season, you could even pick up your sweet potatoes from Rising Sun, nearly completing dessert shopping. The farm also sells apples picked from its orchard for a short season every September and October—something to remember for next year.
Just because it’s traditional to eat a turkey at Thanksgiving doesn’t mean it’s mandatory. If your family doesn’t like turkey, or just wants to do something different this year, try cooking a chicken instead. The bird is also front and center in a number of Kwanzaa recipes, including Jamaican jerk chicken or Nigerian clay-pot chicken.
Pick up your chicken from The Walnut Hill Farm in River Falls, a small city located in both St. Croix and Pierce counties. The farm sells whole chickens—and their eggs, for that matter. Walnut Hill also specializes in pork and offers various cuts for purchase. The farm places an emphasis on sustainability and doesn’t use chemicals, hormones, or antibiotics in or on its chickens or pigs, resulting in truly organic products.
Sure, fluffy mashed potatoes coated with butter are near-perfect, but there’s a simple way to easily elevate them into the best Thanksgiving side dish: Add some garlic. Whether you mince fresh garlic into finished potatoes or stir some in after oven-roasting your taters, garlic mashed potatoes are a way to make a holiday side dish as exciting as the main course.
For freshly-harvested garlic, head out to Burning River Farm, a vegetable farm in northwestern Frederic. The farm has been operating since 2006 and specializes in growing vegetables like garlic, carrots, onions, squash, celery, and many other veggies throughout the winter.
If turkey isn’t your favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner, then there’s a good chance it might be macaroni and cheese. Don’t resort to making it out of a box with processed cheese. Instead, make your own mac and dress it up with your favorite local cheeses.
North Star Homestead Farm in northwestern Hayward sells 15 different types of cheese made from the farm’s cows and sheep including cheddar, Parmesan, and colby Jack. Orders can be picked up at the farm’s creamery, or have your cheese delivered.
Honey’s importance in holiday recipes might be underrated, but it helps make some staple side dishes and desserts shine—literally. Use it to glaze vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots or dunk your sfenj doughnuts in honey during Hanukkah.
Pick up some homemade honey at Nordic Pines Farm, a family-operated farm in Solon Springs. The farm doesn’t just make honey—the family also produces seasonal fruits, vegetables, maple syrup, and Highland beef.
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