This year I am enrolled in Comparative Agroecology, a 2-term Environmental Studies class that focuses on rolling out some of the conflicting interests and complex issues that exist as we strive towards an agriculture model that is “sustainable”. As part of the class, we take trips to farms and survey their farming practices- 12 of these farms are in Minnesota and 12 are in China. From these visits, I have been able to see so many beautiful farms and meet very intelligent passionate farmers — both conventional and organic. They all have something in common – they are food producers – they also expel a common energy of ingenuity, a hard-working spirit, and radical type of happiness. In this post I hope to share a piece of my experience because I wish I could have fit you all in my suitcase and brought you with me.
Part 1: Minnesota
contemplating corn. at this 4200 acre corn (75%) and soy (25%) farm, father and son team work hard to keep up with all the new farming technology (the “gizmo factor”) but dad still uses his teeth to check the moisture content of his corn. Keeping up with the most efficient machinery has enabled them to increase yields and decrease the carbon footprint of their farm.
looking into the grain drier.
empty but ready for harvest.
organic dairy farmer and his grandson who wants to follow is his grandpa’s footprints. Mr Ludke was a hardworking man – his days start at 5 am and don’t end until sundown, when he starts tinkering with his side hobby building flamers. He switched to organic before it was trendy after watching his daughter playing in the corn fields and fearing for the safety of his family. He has 80 dairy cows, 200 young steers, and 860 acres of organic oats, alfalfa, corn, and soy for their feed.
after seeing the calves, these cows looked gigantic.
the crew with Mr Ludke.
Whole Grain Milling company grows, packages, and sells organic corn, oats, buckwheat, rye, barley, sunflowers, and soybeans. here they are rolling out rolled oats.
after being sorted through the gravity huller, the fullest oats get rolled out for human consumption and the small ones get put into animal feed.
The man behind Whole Grain Milling Co.
East Henderson Farm – an 100 member organic vegetable CSA farm in the rolling hills of Minnesota. This young couple started their farm in 2008 and they have unending goals for its growth and improvement. They both work separate jobs to support their growing family but the farm is their passion.
big blue sky, small red barn
there’s us again.
Waxwing Farm is a 60 member CSA farm near Northfield. They aren’t certified organic because of the cost and time-restrictiveness of certification but because they build trust with their customers the certification isn’t necessary.
David peeling up the row cover at Jordan Farm, a large conventional vegetable farm near Woodbury. Its been around for 4 generations and grows all kinds of vegetables for over 19 farmers markets in the area. They use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers to ensure their vegetables are safe and strong and use plastic for weed control. When asked if he’s considered switching to organic, he replied “I don’ t see the need to. There is room for all types of growers in the market but I am more concerned with keeping it local and using chemicals in an environmentally conscious way.”
Nice old tractor.
Elm Tree Farm – 3 acre (and growing) organic apple orchard that sells to co-ops in the Twin Cities area, they also grow hay for their horses and use their manure to fertilize their apple field.
yummy crispy apples
and a lovely horse.