The Priskes Are Stewards of the Land at Fountain Prairie Farm
By moving away from conventional farming methods, John and Dorothy Priske have restored prairie and wetlands
The meat from Dorothy and John Priske's Fountain Prairie Farm is used in top Madison restaurants.
PHOTO BY OTEHLIA CASSIDY
Wisconsin natives John and Dorothy Priske purchased their 280-acre farm near Fall River in 1986, after spending a number of years working out west. The Priskes initially raised corn, soybeans and pigs. As their operation grew, they realized they had to make a choice: continue farming conventionally or take a completely different approach.
In the late ’90s, they decided to move away from industrial agriculture, instead restoring the prairie and wetlands, opening a B&B and planting cool-season grasses for their small herd of Scottish Highland Cattle, the oldest registered cattle breed.
Their beef was immediately in high demand. Because of the large variety of grasses the cattle can eat, and the practice of dry-aging the meat, the beef is very flavorful. It is served at many area restaurants and can be purchased directly from the Priskes at the Dane County Farmers’ Market. Chef Tory Miller of L’Etoile and Graze has long been one of the biggest supporters—he bought 27,200 pounds in 2013 alone!
The Priskes look forward to enjoying their retirement and have been slowly decreasing their herd size from about 550 head a few years ago to their current herd of about 175; they plan to reduce even more.
The Priskes feel this is a good choice for them and their land, which has benefited from their commitment to sustainable agriculture over the years. In addition to restoring some natural habitat, the Priskes put the majority of their acreage into trust with help from Natural Heritage Land Trust, ensuring that it would remain farmland and never be developed. These efforts earned the Priskes the title of the Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association’s 2010–2011 Conservation Farmers of the Year and assure that their legacy as land stewards benefits many generations to come.
RECIPE: Sugar and Spice Grilled Tri-tip
1 tri-tip steak, fat trimmed
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large shallots diced
1 tsp dried oregano
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp guajillo chile powder
1/4-1/2 tsp hot chile powder (I used Hatch hot)
1 tsp dried thyme
Marinate tri-tip steak in olive oil, shallots and oregano in fridge overnight.
Remove steak from fridge and bring to room temperature about 2–3 hours before grilling.
Preheat grill to 400 degrees. Mix garlic, salt, sugar, thyme and chile powders together. Scrape most of oil and shallots off steak. Rub the spice mixture onto both sides of the steak.
Place on hot grill, fat side up. Cook about 10–15 minutes, until browned. Flip steak and cook another 5–8 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 125–135 degrees. Remove steak from grill and cover with foil tent. Let rest about 10 minutes before slicing.
Serving suggestion: Make a steak sandwich using the slices of Tri-tip. Watch the video above for complete instructions!
RECIPE: Dorothy Priske’s Perfect Pot Roast
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
3–4 sprigs of thyme
1 3-lb Fountain Prairie Farms Highland beef chuck roast
1 cup red wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 3 cups vegetables (such as carrots, onions, potatoes, turnips and/or rutabagas), cubed
Place sliced onion, garlic and thyme in bottom of roasting pan. Sear chuck roast on both sides in large skillet and place on top of onions. Deglaze the skillet with the red wine and pour over roast. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and roast in a 300-degree oven for 3 to 4 hours. (If including vegetables, add them during the last hour of roasting.) Remove roast to a warm platter and cover with foil. Discard thyme sprigs. Place roasting pan over medium heat. Whisk juices to incorporate garlic and onions and to scrape up any brown bits from the pan. Taste sauce and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Recipe courtesy of Dorothy Priske of Fountain Prairie Farms.
Join the Priskes, Otehlia Cassidy and Madison Magazine at Fountain Prairie Farm for the first annual Farm to Feast Dinner on June 8. Enjoy a four-course Tuscan-style farm dinner prepared by Lombardino’s Chef Patrick O’Halloran. Click here or tickets and more information.