NEW FARMER JOURNAL: Loon Organics, Eagan MN

From dawn to dusk
Each new day brings new lessons, challenges and gifts for these new farmers.

By Laura Frerichs
Posted September 16, 2005

Farm-At-A-Glance

Loon Organics
Eagan, MN

Farmers: Laura Frerichs and Adam Cullip

First season: 2005

What they raise: Specialty vegetables and herbs

Marketing strategies: Local food co-ops, neighbor’s established roadside stand, plan to start a CSA next year.

September, 2005. Our field is a mere 100 paces from our door, and every day I venture out there shortly after waking. The mornings are still, calm and peaceful. Fog and haze or clear and blue, it is one of the best times of day, with the birds singing along to boot. Depending on the weather, afternoons bring the pleasant bright sun soaking into bare arms, which can quickly morph into a relentless heat with no respite. And finally, dusk. Dusk brings pink, orange, purple, yellow, and blue hues throughout the big Western sky. Despite swarming mosquitoes, it can equal the stillness of dawn, but has an underlying energy (albeit tired energy), with all of the many accomplished tasks swarming around in one’s head.

Just as one long day, the farming season plays out similarly over the course of months, and with the end of September rapidly approaching, Adam and I find ourselves approaching the dusk of the season. In my mind, I am simultaneously reviewing lessons learned over past months, while looking towards the future of next season and beyond. The knowledge we gleaned this season, and the plans we have for the future, are both exciting and daunting.

I’ll start with the future: We are still planning on starting CSA shares for next season, with the goal of garnering fifty members. Right now we have a solid 10. In addition, we’ll still sell to local co-ops and one farmers market, focusing on products that did the best for us: zucchini/summer squash, green beans, tomatoes, herbs, beets, and salad mix. Our weekly CSA boxes will feature popular produce from neighboring Gardens of Eagan, such as sweet corn, melons, cukes, peppers, broccoli, and kale. This really takes a load off of us to concentrate on growing and experimenting with more specialty stuff and guarantees that we will always have consistent, high-quality produce for our boxes. We hope to run a successful CSA next year and expand our share members by double for the 2007 season. Maybe then, we could think about buying some land….

For the past leading into the present: Many lessons learned. I hope I can remember and apply many of them for next year, or it may be lessons unknowingly spurned. I have been working about 55 hours off-farm during the week, which left me with little time to help out with harvesting at our busiest points, and I cannot do that again. Adam spent much of August in a sort of cherry tomato purgatory—picking by himself for hours on end in the midst of blanketing heat and humidity, only to find the majority of tomatoes had split from all the rain received lately. He also cultivated, side-dressed, tilled, and planted most of our crops from July on. On non-harvest days, he worked for Gardens of Eagan, operating tractors, harvesting, and helping out with odd jobs there, and the specialized knowledge he gained there is a lot of what I was lacking. I did have an extra year of farm experience under my belt, so this season got him up to speed real quick, and we’re now more well-rounded partners with complementary skills and knowledge.

Besides our cherry tomatoes from hell, we had pretty good success with other vegetables. Our zucchini/summer squash crop was fabulous; easy, productive, and disease resistant until the squash bugs invaded. It’s amazing how many hundreds of pounds of summer squash we got out of 800 feet. In the next weeks, we will begin planting garlic and are in the process of figuring how much and what kind to plant. Also, we did pass our organic certification inspection and are now a certified organic vegetable and herb farm.

No one said farming is easy, and rightly so, but I think I still love it. I will ponder that as I go out to bunch beets in the glowing embers of the setting sun, putting on a flannel to keep out the cool breeze and mosquitoes. Ahhh, dusk.