Sugar Peas — How An Air Force Vet Continues To Serve

Welcome back as we introduce you to Wisconsin specialty crops and the people who grow them.

We’re heading into hoop houses in east central Wisconsin to get acquainted with a farm family that produces “green magic”. We’re talking about sugar peas.

Wisconsin is a top pea producer. There are two types of peas – green peas (pods are not edible) and sugar snap peas or snow peas (pods are edible). Peas are primarily grown in the Central Sands or east central Wisconsin. Peas are a great source of fiber, vitamin C, iron, zinc, and potassium.

At Sullivan Family Farm in Manitowoc, the hoop houses are full of 7-foot sugar pea plants. The family is harvesting now. U.S. Air Force Veteran Ryan Sullivan calls these peas “green magic” because they grow fast, taste good, and have been a valuable crop for his family.

Sullivan started farming following his military retirement in 2021. He and his wife became interested in gardening to live a healthier lifestyle. That has since expanded to raising livestock and a variety of specialty crops. Sullivan found support for his family’s farm through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farmer Veteran Coalition, Marbleseed, and Grassworks, just to name a few. Through NRCS, the family was able to finance hoop houses.

“It allows us to get a two-month jump on production,” Sullivan explains. “Being able to get in a protected environment, keep them warm, keep consistent watering on them — they really thrive. Having the hoop houses to grow (the peas) makes an enormous difference for us.”

It turns out agriculture has also been a way for Sullivan to continue serving the community. Sullivan Family Farm is one of 125 farms to earn a state contract this year to feed communities in need. Through the Local Food Purchase Agreement program, the family sells wholesale goods – ground beef, lamb, and vegetables – to food pantries in the region.

“We’ve been able to work with Grow It Forward in Manitowoc, which is a great food pantry. They’ll put on community meals,” Sullivan says. “We’ve been able to move a lot of fresh vegetables, a lot of ground beef and ground lamb into there. So we’re very thankful to be a part of that.”

The next goal for the family is to expand the tourism element of the farm beyond the farmstand. Sullivan Family Farm is enrolled in the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association’s Peer-to-Peer Mentorship Program. The class will teach them how to operate an agri-tourism destination.  Learn more about how to engage with Wisconsin’s agricultural tourism industry at

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This podcast series is courtesy of Specialty Crop Block Grant 23-10.