Science on Tap: 5 Must-Have Skills for Gardening in Wisconsin

Jason Fishbach got the gardening bug thanks to a drought, a dry lakebed and a handful of green beans. Tonight at 6:30pm he will share the tips and tricks of gardening in Wisconsin for Science on Tap-Minocqua. Current or aspiring green thumbs are invited to join us either in person at the Minocqua Brewing Company or watch a live-stream of the talk either at the Minocqua Public Library or online.

FIshbach and his family with their pasture-raised chickens. Photo: Beth Probst

Jason will talk about agriculture in the Northwoods, his work on salvaging the future of iconic Wisconsin farming practices, new crops he’d like to add to the mix and the top-five skills gardeners in the north must master.
So come on out, bring your questions, grab a drink and join the conversation. It’s sure to be a memorable night in Minocqua and one that may even lead to better yields in your own home garden!
We asked Jason a few questions about himself and his talk below:

CFL: Who are you, what do you do and how’d you get started in this line of work?
Fishbach: My love of gardening started as a kid when I grew a bunch of green beans during the drought of 1988 in the bed of Lake Minnetonka.  My B.A. is from Carleton College where I studied plant biology and sustainable agriculture.  After Carleton I worked with my wife in the Boundary Waters as a Wilderness Ranger and then spent a year in Sweden working on a 100-acre vegetable farm.  My M.S. is from the University of Minnesota where I studied agronomy and plant genetics with a focus on perennial grain and forage crops.  After graduate school I worked for a forestry cooperative in the Ashland area and then joined UW-Extension in 2006 and have been with them ever sine working as the Agriculture Agent for Ashland and Bayfield Counties and the Food and Energy Woody Crops Specialist for Wisconsin.
CFL: What is the sort of “overall picture” of agriculture in northern Wisconsin counties right now?
Fishbach: Agriculture in our region is very much in transition.  Our dairy farmers are retiring and they are either expanding to accommodate the next generation or selling the farm.  What happens next is still unknown.  We do have a growing specialty-crop sector with production of high-value fruits and vegetables, mainly direct marketed.  We also have beef producers increasingly using managed intensive grazing to produce grass-fed beef.
CFL: What are some ways that you work to diversify and revitalize the agriculture economy in northern Wisconsin? Are there specific crops that you think would be good fits to do this?
Fishbach: My main focus has been to help dairy farms succeed to the next generation and to do whatever I can to help the specialty-crop sector continue to grow.  I work with the fruit growers in Bayfield to improve pest management and overall production.  I work with veggie growers to better use season-extension technologies and I help all farmers develop better business practices and explore new markets.  I also been working to develop entirely new crops including hazelnuts and purpose-grown biomass (to be used to make biofuels) such as willow and poplar.
CFL: Can you give us one of the “top five” skills a gardener up north should master?
Fishbach: Sorry, all five are top secret until tonight’s event.
CFL: What’s your favorite Northwoods crop?
Fishbach: Hazelnuts with currants being a close second.
Remember, the talk starts at 6:30 at the Minocqua Brewing Company, or you can tune in online!