Green and clean farming

Article by Elissa Cottle published in the Stillwater Gazette, MN:

"Farmers supply local produce to area business"

Afton Farmer Hallie Anderson straddles her 30-inch rows of clean carrots and lays it out straight: “We really like to eat and we really like to feed people.” Three years ago, Anderson and her mother, Lisa Talbott, began converting a horse pasture into the 10th Street Farm & Market, a small but high-yield field of vegetables grown without chemicals and big machines. They grow the produce that ends up in the baskets of River Market Community Co-op shoppers in Stillwater.

The 10th Street Farm was one of 19 farms on the “Eat Local Farm Tour” in July, organized by River Market and other local food co-ops, giving visitors an up-close look at where food starts. Anderson and Talbott bought 18 acres and so far are growing edibles on a half-acre. But that half-acre is producing what conventional farms typically get out of two acres, Anderson is proud to say.

The mother-daughter team built three 15-foot high movable tunnels out of metal frames and clear plastic. The tunnels extend the growing season, keeping their crops as warm as farmlands 500 miles south of Afton. The tunnels weigh 6,800 pounds each, but they sit on sliding tracks. “My mom and I can physically push them on our own,” says Anderson.

You won't hear the rumble of big tractors on their farm either. The women use “hand tools” to plow, seed, weed, compost and harvest their crops. “It's an intense way to grow really healthy plants,” she said. In addition to selling wholesale to River Market, the 10th Street Market grows “micro greens” -- plants picked at only 1- to 3-inches high. Those first few inches contain at least four times the nutrition of the full-grown plant. The new Wedge & Wheel cheese bar in Stillwater buys the farm's micro greens for its salads and sandwiches.

The farm also sells its product via the “community supported agriculture” (CSA) system, in which people buy a “share” of the farm – ranging from $175 to $300 per season. The farm provides for 20-member CSAs each spring, winter and fall. Members pick up their reusable canvas bags filled every week with the in-season harvest. 10Th Street Farm also has “kid supported agriculture” (KSA) in which families may rent 10-feet square plots to grow their own food.

The farm's market is open to the public Thursdays 4 to 7 p.m. and Fridays 9 a.m. to noon. The market is now bursting with tomatoes and other veggies.

Big River Farm in Marine on St. Croix grows both food and new farmers. “We train minority farmers from Africa, India, Cambodia and other countries,” said Farm Manager Aaron Blyth to a group of about 25 seniors from Boutwells Landing taking the farm tour. “After three years of learning, they will be growing farm-fresh produce on their own, on a sustainable basis.”

Big River sells vegetables to River Market and through CSAs, including two that serve Stillwater. The harvest bags are delivered to Lakeview Hospital and a private home in Stillwater where the CSA members pick up their weekly shares.

The farm tour also featured Whistling Well Farm in Hastings, an apple orchards farm growing 10,000 apple trees and using a pest-control system that prevents pest eggs from hatching, rather than killing insects directly and greatly reducing the pesticide use found on conventional apple orchards. “River Market is our very best customer,” said farm owner Charlie Johnson who runs operates the orchards with his son Chad Johnson. Whistling Well gets its name because “our well whistles when the east wind is just right off of the St. Croix River.”

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