It felt like winter at Derri and Ryan's December reception, but it was a blast at the barn. This fun couple and their super fun family and friends kept us laughing all night. All the beautiful winter details were perfect: the greenery and the gold, and the love this couple has for each other, warmed up the barn on a chilly - but happy - winter night.
Congratulations, Derri and Ryan!
Photos by Fitz Photography
These two had been married for fifteen years before coming to the Farm to celebrate their vow renewal, and let me tell you, they were no less in love than any newlyweds. This intimate vow renewal and reception was lovely to be a part of, and the guests made us feel as welcome as we hope we did for them - they even included us in their photos (and let us taste the delicious cake)!
Congratulations, Cindy and Tim! We wish you and your beautiful little family many more years of happiness!
Photos by Sunrise Photography
Cake by Steph Halverson
This gorgeous couple got married on a crisp November day in 2018. They had the craziest wedding party and the funnest guests and all the details made us drool. We loved seeing these two start their forever.
Congratulations, Hunter and Keely!
Photo by Copper Antler Photography.
Cake by Tina Cakes.
This year we hired on a new person, and her name is McKenna. She's from Fennimore and is super awesome at graphics and things, but the most important thing is that she's a redhead, which means we're best friends on principle.
McKenna is from the farm so she likes farm stuff, but this type of farm is a whole new ball of wax for her.
"I used to come during fall season when I was younger and have some really good memories of going through the corn maze with friends and spending time with my now-husband," says McKenna. But working here isn't anything like she expected!
Her first reaction when she came to interview for the job was that she was waaay overdressed. She was in formal interview attire while Kyle was in his ripped yellow t-shirt and farm jeans. Even though she felt uncomfortable in her heels, McKenna felt like part of the crew right away. And now that she's been here a few months, she's grown accustomed to the relaxed farm dress code. And she's learned and figured out all the weirdness of the farm: the strange hours, the weird projects, and all the bizarre things we get involved in. Plus, she's put in quite a bid to have Bruce teach her to run the catapult!
McKenna has made a lot of the graphics and videos and fun marketing things that you might have seen on the Facebook page lately, and she's been working really hard with Kyle to get our new ice cream business off the ground. She even spent an entire day with my (very grumpy) child taking photographs and arranging sets so we could get some fun pictures of our ice cream! She's really been enjoying bringing the farm into more visibility and testing out her creative chops.
In her free time, McKenna enjoys crafting; hunting in the fall; fishing on the boat in the summer; and dirt biking and four-wheeling. But in the last few months, she's been super preoccupied with wedding planning and traveling! She didn't get married on the farm (we're not holding that against her), but her wedding was Saturday, June 29th and she just got back from her honeymoon in Punta Cana. She's super excited to not only be married, but buy a house, and settle down in the area with her new husband, Kyle (not our Kyle; diesel mechanic Kyle Richard whom she's been dating for the past few years).
We're super happy for her and wish her the best! And we are excited for her return to the farm to hang out with us!
Eric is another "jack of all trades, master of none" (his words, not ours!) employee at the farm. He started as a tractor driver in the fall of 2015 (the first year we opened in the new barn) driving the kiddie wagon and out to the pumpkin patch.
Since then, he's used his jack of all trades status to help with a variety of projects and jobs on the farm, like helping transform the old garage Kyle bought at auction into our bridal suite; cleaning and setting up for events; bartending during weddings; the person behind our (shhhhhhh...) Easter Bunny and Santa Claus; and even shooting off a few pumpkins during fall season every now and then! With the exception of helping in the kitchen, he's pretty much done it all. Even though his job description doesn't always match what he really ends up doing on his shift, Eric rolls with the punches and enjoys his time out at the farm. "Maybe that's the secret of Vesperman Farms," he laughs, "Everyone is willing to do anything we can to help make our customer experience a good one."
In his non-farm life, this employee is a homebody and a town loyal. He grew up in Lancaster and currently teaches tech ed at the high school, a position he's dreamt about since he was in college at UW-Platteville. He's happy in this town, loves teaching at his old high school, and spends a lot of time with his family, wife and kid (the "kid" part is soon to be plural, with his second on the way this July!), and dogs. You may recognize the brown dog - Maret makes frequent appearances on our Facebook page and Eric is often responsible for persuading her to pose for our never-ending photos.
In his free time, Eric is a woodworker who loves to create anything from cutting boards to kid's toys to built-in bookshelves. He's an experimenter more than an expert (he says he's made things that make great firewood), but he enjoys the challenges and rewards and lessons learned from every project. Much like his attitude out here on the farm, when it comes to his hobbies, the experience is just as rewarding as the end result.
Eric truly enjoys his many roles out on the farm, especially because he gets to share their excitement about a family trip to the pumpkin patch or a big celebration like a wedding. "Being able to be a part of their experiences is what I love most about working at Vesperman Farms," he says. His enthusiasm and love for our customers makes us happy to have Eric "wood chip" in - in any role!
Elly is the type of employee that this farm dreams of. She does it all: she can bartend, she does dishes, she washes pumpkins and plants strawberries, she can cook up pancakes like a dream, and she sets up the whole barn for fall season (and takes it all down when the fall fun is over), and she'll do it all with a smile on her face and a hilarious comment or story to boot.
And the best part about all this? She wasn't even looking for a job when she walked into the barn 4 years ago. But Kyle made sure she left with one.
During that fall season, Elly popped in for donuts and noticed that we were a little busy. Elly (being Elly) asked if Kyle needed any help. "And Kyle said, 'Come back tomorrow,'" Elly laughed. So she did and since then she's just done basically every job here at the farm. Elly loves to help and loves to give great customer service, enjoys being around people celebrating big and small milestones in their lives, and loves interacting with the families that spend their time out on the farm.
"The kids are the best part of working here - seeing their faces and hearing them talk about their experiences on the farm," says Elly, who a lot of people call the best checkout lady ever. "I love having the kids guess the weight of their own pumpkins and asking them how their day was." And Elly never passes up an opportunity to monitor the zip line, because she says "the adults are the best part."
In her other life, Elly owns and operates a little country tavern called Yoder's in Rockville and she brings the same hard work ethic and bright personality to her customers there, too. Elly loves Harley-Davidson; goes up north to Winter, WI, to ride side-by-sides; and - as a 14-year breast cancer survivor who knows how precious life is - spends as much time as she can with her family. She also has a motorcycle hearse - first I've ever heard of one! - that can be pulled behind a motorcycle for funeral processions.
"People warm my heart," Elly says, and she means it. She is nothing but genuine love and humor, and we always love when she's behind the bar, at the counter, or in the pumpkin patch.
We had such a good time tasting the flavors, but we can't keep them all to ourselves. We're even more excited to make them available to you! All through the month of June, we'll be at a variety of places where you can visit to taste our ice cream, culminating in a super fun event on the farm! For a list of tasting events, visit our website. More on our ice cream event on the farm below!
At the end of this month, we'll be hosting our first ever Sundaes on the Farm. Drop in Sunday, June 30 from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. and enjoy the farm activities, but - most importantly - try our ice cream! All our flavors will be available for tasting and we'll have pints for purchase. Visit our website or check us out on Facebook for the full event details!
After attending ice cream school, Kyle had a pretty clear idea of what he wanted to do.
The first thing on the agenda was order the ice cream machine. At school, he got to experiment with a few different kinds of ice cream machines, and the one he liked best was an Emery Thompson, which is made by one of the oldest ice cream machine manufacturers in the country. A lot of recognizable names in the ice cream industry started out on this type of machine, including Ben & Jerry's and Haagen-Daaz. (Maybe one day we'll be on their website!)
The ice cream machine is small-ish, but it can produce about 7 gallons of ice cream in about 10 minutes, so it's a pretty powerful ice-cream-makin' machine.
Once Kyle got the machine, he got right down to business making ice cream, which was (I'm not gonna lie), pretty awesome for our staff. Below are some pictures of us making our delicious strawberry and mint cookie ice cream!
To start, Kyle had to get a good recipe for both chocolate and vanilla, and that experimentation process took a week or so. We went through quite a few batches of ice cream, all of which were thoroughly tested by our staff. We offered Kyle some valuable input and we raided the freezer more than once (okay, more than twice) to make sure things were in tip-top flavor.
Since then, we've worked on developing about 10 core flavors that people really enjoy, and the fun part has been learning about all the different types of ingredients and techniques that make ice cream great. What's the best ratio of caramel to ice cream? How many walnuts should be in the mix? And how do you get a really good swirl? We'll be experimenting with more flavors as we develop our brand - and our staff will be right there with us, especially in the fall when we begin to work on the magic equation we've all been waiting for: ice cream + donuts.
We're super excited to follow up what was the best week ever here at the farm with more weeks full of ice cream flavors and tasting. Check out our next blog for all our current flavors. And don't worry, we'll be updating you with any new developments on Facebook and on our webpage!
The farm is a unique place. I mean, I don't know many places that combine a pumpkin patch and corn maze, weddings and events, donut fundraising, giant pumpkin growing, and berry patches all in one business.
And now we're adding one more thing.
For years, Kyle has had an idea of a food goods line in the back of his mind. For awhile, it was a jams and jellies, a common food product produced by places like ours. Then it was wine and craft beers. Then he entertained the idea of pies. Then cookies and cakes and the list goes on and on. But then one conversation changed his whole trajectory.
During a random chat one night, Kyle's neighbor and friend told him that he should think about a line of ice cream products. The more Kyle thought about it, the more he liked it. It seemed to fit. It was different. It sounded like a fun challenge.
But he wasn't sure where to start, so the same friend, who stays in close contact with the UW-Madison dairy science program, suggested Kyle look into Ice Cream School, and exclusive course taught once a year there.
What happened after that, well, was a lot of waiting. I mean, waiting, yes, but also a lot of work. We got distracted. Kyle finished building the barn, we grew a weddings and events business, and we started our fall season in the new space. We got busy, and so the food good lines took a backseat. Also, Kyle could not get into this class!
He tried to sign up once, it was full. And so the next time the course opened, he signed up immediately. But he still had to wait for another 8 months before the class began in January 2019. And it was when he walked in that he realized how exclusive and important this class was. He was one of 12 people in a 3-day course that ran from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And even though Kyle drove 90 minutes to attend, he was in the minority because people had come from all over the country to attend: the Twin Cities; Virginia; Washington state; Manitoba, Canada; and Kentucky. To put it simply: this class is a really big deal.
The class, which is taught by UW professors but also by ice cream shop owners and industry manufacturers and experts, gave Kyle the opportunity to get the scoop on the ice cream that he wouldn't have gotten otherwise. He learned things at the class that he would have taken a long time to learn otherwise.
On the first day, Kyle and the gang had a crash course in the basics of ice cream and in ice cream food science. They learned then learned about the different machines and proper sanitation and cleanliness. That afternoon, they spent the entire time talking about vanilla and chocolate.
It was here that Kyle learned about all the different types of vanillas - they are made in all different parts of the world, such as Tahiti and Madagascar. They got to try them out, learned how the varieties make subtle differences in taste and texture, and experiment with these vanilla flavors. Not only did Kyle realize just how complex the seemingly simple vanilla flavor can be, but "imitation vanilla is forever ruined for me," he says.
The next two days were focused on using fruits and adding other ingredients to ice cream. They were asked a lot of questions that Kyle had never thought about. Like: What is the correct amount of ripple for an ice cream (the correct amount of butterscotch or chocolate sauce)? What is an inclusion (a horrible word for brownie bits and chocolate chips)? How does adding these things change flavor and texture?
Kyle left the class with a good sense of how he wanted to start his own ice cream business, and he was super excited to begin. Unfortunately, after the class, there was a whole other bout of waiting that needed to take place, which we'll cover in our next blog. We can't wait to share how we chose our ingredients, let you in on our experimentation and development (believe me, as a seven-month pregnant woman, I have had A LOT of fun with our experimentation process), and give you the details on our flavors and where you can find us during the month of June.
We hope you have as much fun as we are having with our new addition to our crazy world: small-batch, super premium ice cream!
This past weekend, I brought my little assistant to help transplant Bruce's giant pumpkins. Okay, he didn't help at all (these pumpkins need a practiced gardener, not a 2-year-old on a mission to move all the dirt in Grant County), but we did get to see the next step in giant pumpkins: getting them into the ground!
Last week, Bruce planted six giant pumpkins, and Saturday he put two more in the ground. We helped with one.
He trimmed up these baby bigs, removing flowers and extra leaves to get them ready for planting. Then we drove over to the field, which might not look like an action-packed place right now, but the real magic is about to start.
Bruce plants these pumpkins sideways so they can follow the ground and so they don't break under their own weight as they grow. He spreads some Miracle Grow, kelp fertilizer, and a little insecticide for each plant to give it a bit of a boost, then he diligently gardens it for the next couple of months.
Each plant is planted about 20 feet away from each other to give them enough room to grow. The goal is to get them big enough and strong enough to have a pollinated pumpkin by the 4th of July, which means that soon this empty-looking field will be a sea a green leaves.
These pumpkins can grow up to three feet in just a day, and Bruce says that to accomplish that amount of growth, they need the right amount of rain, good heat, and a lot of love. When I asked him how long he will spend with these plants in the next few months, he laughed and said: "You don't want to know."
(Kyle added that Bruce spends more time with these eight giant pumpkins than he does with his 8-acres of normal-sized pumpkins!)
My little gardener and I will be checking back in on these pumpkins in the next two weeks and we can't wait to see these plants grow!
Fun on the farm...in blog form!