Agriculture Posts

Fruit of Newbie Fields

When you start a pick-your-own raspberry farm, people say, “You must eat a lot of berries.” The answer is no and yes.

No, because to me our beautiful fruit tastes faintly of stress and anxiety. Farming is a like skydiving: You leap out of a plane wearing a parachute made of all your spring labors and investments — and it will deploy only if conditions are perfect.

Otherwise, you’ll face a financial splat. That’s the very real danger we faced when my husband Jason and I decided to diversify our chicken farm in Wrenshall by starting Farm LoLa, the pick-you-own berry wing of Locally Laid Egg Company.

And this year the stakes feel higher. We’ve invested in an expanded irrigation system; set posts and wire trellis, hired a larger crew and pruned and weeded (and weeded some more). In a lot of ways, the work has paid off.

Though only our second season, we have eight times the berries of last year. Over three acres that equates to some 15,000 lbs. as estimated by our expert, Dr. Thaddeus McCamant. He believes it has something to do with our sandy soil, organic amendments (like “Liquid Squid”) and fruit-friendly climate provided by Lake Superior.

This all leads to what my mother-in-law would call “a good problem to have.” We are now tasked with getting as many of these berries off the field before they go to waste or attract pests or are demolished by a weather event. All of which is real and could happen at any moment. The other day, a big storm was rolling in over the field and I said angrily, “You’d better not hail on this crop!” And it struck me that I’ve become a woman who yells at clouds.

Veggies by Subscription: CSA signup season underway in Duluth

Carrot - ParsnipIt might seem too early to be thinking about fresh local vegetables. The growing season around Lake Superior doesn’t generally start until May, but area farmers are already busy planning their crops and ordering seeds. The signup period has begun for most farms offering community supported agriculture subscriptions. The online CSA Signup Day is today, Feb. 24; Duluth’s CSA open house is March 19.

Farm shares offer a direct method for consumers to access fresh food from local growers. Members buy a seasonal “share” from the farm. During harvest time, which is generally mid-June to mid-December, members go to a designated spot each week to pick up a box of mixed seasonal produce.

Northern Roots: Growing Food in the Western Lake Superior Region

A student-created documentary profiling regional food production in the Western Lake Superior region that includes a 15-county area in northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin. Students in an anthropology course called Ethnobotany filmed, wrote and edited four segments on local food producers.

Sustainable Agriculture

I’m moving to Duluth at the end of this school year (about 10 months) and I am trying to make a plan for some gardening I intend to do. My personal garden will likely be north of Duluth, in the Island Lake area. I know that the soil there isn’t great and that I will be required to haul in some of my own. I also know that Duluth would be in USDA hardiness Zone 3, so that obviously dictates what I will be able to grow.

My question is: what crops have you had success growing in the Duluth area? Any tips or tricks that might help? I’m passionate about returning to localized food production, any advice would be greatly appreciated.