2005. Hi all! I am quite pleased to be writing
for the lovely New Farm page and to share my beginning experiences
with you. Here is a little background on how I got to be here:
Loon Organics (L.O.) is made up of me and my partner, Adam Cullip.
This is our first year independently farming together, and we are
lucky enough to have the support, mentorship, and land of neighboring
organic farmers Martin and Atina Diffley. The Diffley’s farm,
Gardens of Eagan, is a 100-acre certified organic vegetable farm
and one of the major organic vegetable suppliers to the metropolitan
Twin Cities area. Of their 100 acres, L.O. will be renting a 2-acre
“gently rolling” field right outside our back door.
We will be growing specialty vegetables and herbs to sell to two
local food cooperatives, as well as the Diffley’s roadside
stand. Next year we hope to start a CSA.
Loon Organics will be a separate farm entity from Gardens of Eagan
(GOE), but will be able to reap the benefits of GOE’s already
existing infrastructure, equipment, materials, and most importantly,
their vast 30 years of accumulated farming knowledge! Additionally,
to the benefit of all, Adam and I will both be working for Gardens
of Eagan at different points in the season, taking a little bit
of the financial burden off of us. It seems like it will be an almost
ideal beginning farm situation for us, while providing the Diffley’s
with experienced labor and creating more of a sense of community
on their land.
Not only is Gardens of Eagan a support system and resource to us
now, but it is where I had my initial education in organic farming.
In the 2003 season, I was a Gardens of Eagan apprentice, previously
having no practical farming (or even gardening experience). Although
lacking experience, I did have a burgeoning consciousness about
the worldwide institution that is conventional agriculture. These
seeds of consciousness were planted at Grinnell College in Iowa,
where I was an anthropology major. Sustainability was often a topic
of discussion in my anthro classes, and professors and friends were
involved in various projects connecting community members to local,
organic food sources. I think the exposure to these ideas and actions
formed my awareness of the power and importance of local food systems.
Originally though, when I began at Gardens of Eagan, my intentions
were never to be a farmer myself. I had been a Spanish medical interpreter,
but this profession did not align with my dreams at the time. What
I really wanted was to learn how to grow food, to take this knowledge
and work in urban gardens, to go work with sustainable development
in Latin America…You get the idea. I really did not plan on
being back on their farm two years later trying to start my own
small farm. Apparently though, Gardens of Eagan has had many interns
that have ended up farming without initially having those intentions.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed my apprenticeship and I found
working as a farm laborer to be one of the most satisfying jobs
I had ever had. After the Minnesota season ended, I continued on
an organic date ranch in California for the winter and came back
last season to work on a couple other area organic farms—a
CSA and another mid-size organic farm that grows for restaurants
and cooperatives—while still working at the Diffley’s
roadside stand. Just over three weeks ago, Adam and I returned from
southern Brazil, where we managed the gardens of a biodynamic dairy
farm. After all of this experience on multiple organic farms, Adam
and I were beginning to realize that our farming knowledge would
not continue to grow exponentially working for others. We needed
to be the one calling the shots.
So it was absolutely perfect when we started brainstorming with
the Diffley’s last fall and they were open, even excited,
about the possibility of us renting land from them, living adjacent
to their farm, and pestering them every other day with a million
questions about how to do this, that, and the other thing. The farming
knowledge that they have is invaluable to beginners such as us.
It increases our chances of success tenfold upon tenfold. The Diffley’s
are great, and I am sure I will toot their horn a lot over the coming
months. But we have also had a lot of great teachers at the other
farms where we have worked, and they have given loads of advice
over the past months (even disclosing favorite varieties--oh my!).
I only hope that someday we will be able to repay these favors to
some other hopeful kids just looking for a way to begin.