A year ago, Jane Henkel saw an ad for work on the farm and she thought, "hmmm...that sounds interesting." Today, this former food service director for Fennimore schools has a fall and a wedding season under her belt and is back in her "happy place."
Jane retired from 30 years' of food services last year, bought a place in Florida, and started looking for a part-time job that had a lot of flexibility and was something that she enjoyed. Food service in the schools is a lot of hard work, but here at the farm, Jane doesn't have to worry about the paperwork. She gets to do her favorite thing: be on the floor, prepping and cooking food.
The best thing about Jane is her sweet personality, but she also knows her way around the kitchen. During fall season, she comes in and helps prepare food for the busy weekends and make donuts. During our wedding and events season, she's here most Fridays getting our kitchen prepared for event menus. She loves to prep food. And like so many others, her favorite part of farm work is making donuts. "Seeing those kids with their noses against the windows watching us making donuts - It's just a real treat," she says.
Outside of the kitchen, Jane has a rich and wonderful life. She and her husband, Navarre, travel to Florida in the winter months and enjoy the beautiful sunsets, weather, and beaches. She loves to go up North, where she rents a cabin with her whole family in the summer, too. She has a daughter and son and two grandchildren who she adores and spends as much time with as possible. And her grandchildren LOVE to visit them in Florida!
For Jane, it seems that one of her happiest pleasures is visiting with others. Now that she's retired, her walks with her 11-year-old dog Maggie are frequently punctuated by chats with neighbors and friends. At the farm we get to enjoy her fantastic company and great conversation while she's dicing, chopping, slicing, and boiling. Any day on the farm with Jane is a really good day, and we're so happy that she chooses to spend her time with us!
Quinten Kreul's first years on the farm can be summed up by a blank white wall. He started, like many of our employees do, sugaring donuts in the old white barn when he was a sophomore in high school. It was a tedious job.
"For sure not my favorite," says Quinten, who goes by Q.
Since then, Q's broken out of the white-wall monotony. He's done everything on the farm: bartending weddings, setting up and tearing down from events, mowing the endless lawns, painting barns, building random structures and signs, even cleaning out the store room in the spring.
Though his job duties run deep here, Q's favorite things to do are driving the hay wagons to the pumpkin patch and bartending. He's a people person, after all, and he loves talking and hanging out with our farm guests.
Q is also Kyle's right-hand guy for a lot of off-the-wall requests. For example, when we were building the barn, after the trenches for the foundation had been dug, there was a heavy, heavy rain and all the trenches filled up with mud and muck. They couldn't pour any concrete until that was cleaned up, so Kyle called up Q and the guys spent a full day digging out sludge from the trenches. And while that may sound like a miserable job to many of us, to Q that's just a regular day on the farm. Plus, he has a low bar for misery.
"Really anything is better than staring at those white walls all day," he laughs.
Q is now a college student at UW-Whitewater studying cell biology. He plans to go on to chiropractor school after he's done at Whitewater and then hopefully land a job working with a sports team in Wisconsin. In his free time, he likes to do regular stuff - you know, watching sports and playing video games and hanging with his friends. But he's also a happy baker of delicious treats, a talent he picked up from his mom (also an employee here!), who made cakes on the side when he was growing up.
Even though Q isn't going to be the chef he wanted to be as a child, he's going to do great things with his future. How do we know? Well, anyone who can do anything from digging out muddy trenches to baking a mean batch of blueberry muffins is a force to be reckoned with.
Thanks, Q, for just being you and for all that you do for us at the farm. You're an absolute treasure...but we would like it if you brought us in some baked good every now and then. :)
Self-styled Donut Girl and Fry Gal, Ashley Cray has been working for us for years. She started making donuts during fall season, and although she still enjoys firing up the donut machine every now and then, she now helps us out with catering and food service, retail checkout during fall season, and is currently training to be a coordinator for our weddings and events.
Although she works late nights now with events, Ashley started with early mornings. When we only had one donut machine, we had to start super early in the morning to keep up with the donut demand throughout the day. She remembers slogging into the barn at 4 or 5 in the morning, working 10-hour days, and still feeling like they barely kept up with the donuts flying off the shelves. Now, we have two donut machines, so Ashley's days (thankfully) don't start as early as they used to.
Professional Photo by S. Kelly Photography.
Ashley's motto for life is that it's too short, so we need to make memories and cherish time with each other at every opportunity. This philosophy makes her work here at the farm very meaningful to her. She loves meeting people and helping them celebrate the big and small days of their lives, whether it's a family fun day on the farm or a wedding - to Ashley, each day is as important as the next, and each day is a treasure. Any time she leaves a shift, Ashley feels good about the impact she's made on others' lives, even if it's just in a small way, like a donut for a happy kid. And when she's making donuts, she has the best seat in the house:
"Probably my other favorite part of the farm is making donuts during fall season and seeing kids' noses smooshed up against the glass with their wide eyes and their caramel-apple fingers," she says. "It's fall season at its best."
Ashley's feel-good attitude towards the Farm and our purpose is exactly why we do what we do: we want everyone, even and especially our employees, to enjoy their time with family and friends on the farm.
Like most of our employees, the Farm is a second job for Ashley. By day, her professional title is a legal assistant for a law firm in Lancaster. But her personal nickname for her day-life is much different than all the hats she wears at either of her jobs. An avid hiker and biker, Ashely loves to get outdoors, and one of the ways she does this is to geocache, during which she goes by the moniker Backroads Ninja.
If you're wondering what geocaching is, don't worry - I had no clue either. But it's awesome! Geocaching is an outdoor scavenger hunt that uses GPS-enabled devices. Participants use GPS to locate items hidden in specific locations and logged by other geocachers. The app or the web-based site provides hints and descriptions to these hidden treasures, making it the perfect outdoor activity for someone who loves silly adventures - exactly our girl, Ashley.
So far, Ashley has found 84 caches. Her favorite find was a rubber duck trackable (similar to the Where's George? dollar bills). This duck had a little log and a code and had been all over the United States. But she's found other things, like kid's trinkets in a box or even sometimes pieces of trash. All these little treasures are stuck in dead tree stumps or in a fencepost or shoved into broken concrete - no matter what you find, Ashley says geocaching is always an adventure!
To us, this local farm girl is an absolute geocache treasure - we always love when she's on the schedule. She's an uplifting, happy-go-lucky friend to all she meets, and we couldn't be happier that she spends her time with us.
Fun on the farm...in blog form!