Helping women in farming cultivate their dreams

Port’s Dream Apple Farm hosts Sen. Baldwin’s roundtable intended to highlight issues facing women in agriculture
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington’s Dream Apple Farm and DreamPort Harvest Market are growing more than just fruit.

They’re helping women in farming grow their dreams, most recently by hosting an Oct. 3 roundtable held by Sen. Tammy Baldwin intended to highlight issues faced by women in agriculture.

The roundtable was inspired by a July listing of the 14 female farmers and producers whose products are offered at DreamPort Harvest Market, Peggy Callahan, who with her husband Ed owns the market and orchard, said.

“As you look around our store, on our shelves, you can’t help but notice how many women are involved,” Callahan said. “Ed said, ‘We need to highlight that.’”

After her husband posted a list recognizing the women, she said, a staff member in Baldwin’s office called to say the senator wanted to sit down with the women to discuss the challenges they experience in farming and asked if the Callahans would host the event.

“Her staff thought this would be a good thing for the senator to hear about,” Callahan said.

Nine women attended the roundtable in person and one online, representing a wide spectrum of farming — women who run orchards and raise vegetables, beef and dairy cows, flowers and hemp among them. All were from southeastern Wisconsin, and they own small operations. Many have their products at DreamPort Harvest Market.

“Ironically, a couple of our farmers were too busy to participate,” Ed Callahan said.

The event was scheduled to run for 45 minutes, but Baldwin arrived early and stayed later than expected, doubling the amount of time she spent with the women, Peggy Callahan said.

“For her to spend that much time talking to people is kind of impressive,” she said.
The issues discussed ranged from the difficulty in finding land to ways to make small farming viable as large, corporate operations swallow family run farms.

There were discussions about mental health and how to encourage young people to go into farming, especially since it often doesn’t pay enough to be the sole source of income for a family.

Access to health insurance — another reason farm families often hold an outside job — and ways to make it easy for small markets and growers to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, program.

“It’s onerous for a small store to (accept) SNAP now,” Callahan said.

They also talked about the difficulty small beef farmers have accessing production facilities, which Callahan said are geared toward handling large producers.

“It’s really a challenge. People want meat from small family farms but small farms cannot get access to these facilities easily,” she said.

Baldwin and her staff also joined the women in a tour of Dream Apple Farm, which produces organic apples and raspberries and related products.

Baldwin listened intently to what the women had to say, Callahan said, and she is expected to follow up with those attending regarding the issues they discussed.

“These are not easy topics,” Callahan said. “We knew we weren’t going to solve the issues of farming in 45 minutes.”

The Callahans said they were happy to host the roundtable and Baldwin and are open to holding future events for local leaders as well as state and federal officials like Baldwin.

“It was a huge honor to host the senator at our little farm,” Callahan said.

The couple, who are physicians by trade, bought the Port property in 2012 and took several years to clean up the land and learn how to grow their orchard before harvesting their first crop.

Today, the orchard has roughly 1,300 trees with more than 30 varieties of apples.

They opened DreamPort Harvest Market earlier this year.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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