The poor farmer makes weeds
The mediocre one makes crops
The skilled farmer makes soil
~ Japanese proverb, quoted by Kosho Uchiyama
Organic farming is unique in the emphasis, care and attention it places on the quality of the soil. Organic farmers know that nothing can grow successfully over time unless the soil is full of life – millions of microorganisms and nutrients that feed the crops and help them withstand challenges from weather and pests. Organic certification is based not only on the use of organic methods by the farmers to fertilize and harvest their crops, but also requires a full 36 months of transition time, during which the soil must remain untreated by chemicals, before a farm can become Certified Organic.
This transition time clearly demonstrates the top priority given to the health of the soil in organic farming systems, and is why Gardens of Eagan uses Dirt First as their slogan. When the Wedge Co-op moved Gardens of Eagan to new farmland in 2013, their motivation was to protect additional prime soil just outside the Twin Cities by transitioning it to organic. Most of the 100+ acres that the farm now sits on in Northfield, Minnesota were previously farmed conventionally, but have been in transition to organic for over a year. During the past year, the farmers at Gardens of Eagan have taken steps to help cleanse the soil of toxins, encourage the growth of beneficial microorganisms, and preserve the natural resources of the farm. Last spring, a group of volunteers planted trees along the perimeter of the farm to serve as a windbreak and buffer zone for the crops.
All of these steps will make Gardens of Eagan a reliable, local source of quality organic produce for years to come. These are all good reasons to own an organic farm: preserving 100+ acres of prime farmland close to the Metro; using organic and ecologically-sound farming methods that protect the environment; and providing a reliable, local source of healthy, organic vegetables. But there is an even bigger reason why our community has this farm – to transform the food and farming systems we rely on into ones that are sustainable and healthy for the planet, ourselves, and our children.
To ensure that the values of Dirt First are more widely adopted, and that the next generation of farmers is prepared to carry them forward, the farm has the Organic Field School. While the Gardens of Eagan farmers have been preparing the ground at the new farm to grow crops this year, Organic Field School has been doing some cultivating work of its own: preparing the ground for new farmers and the broader community to engage with the farm as their own organic classroom. We have been working on creating a place that everyone can feel connected to and welcome at, in order to provide the kind of tangible, direct experience that helps all of us learn best.
Many of our preparations at OFS, like the cultivation of the soil itself, have been happening below ground – establishing relationships with other area co-ops and food & farming nonprofits; expanding our incubator program for beginning farmers from one to three farms; raising funds to support our work as we build our capacity; and sharing who we are and what we do via social media, print media, and one-to-one meetings. But like the soil, we know something is growing as a result of these efforts – we have seen green shoots sprouting that tell us we’re on the right track.
Wendell Berry, in his essay Local Knowledge in the Age of Information, writes, “As farmers never tire of repeating, you can’t learn to farm by reading a book, and you can’t tell somebody how to farm. Older farmers I knew used to be fond of saying, ‘I can’t tell you how to do that, but I can put you where you can learn.’”
The Organic Field School at Gardens of Eagan is just such a place to learn, and we hope you will join us this year.
This event, held at Kitchen in the Market (inside the Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis) was a great success. Thanks to all who came to celebrate and support our work.
If you missed the party, but want to support our work helping new organic farmers get started and old hands get even better, send your $40 contribution to:
Organic Field School
c/o Gardens of Eagan
25494 Highview Ave.
Farmington, MN 55024
(Organic Field School is a 501(c)(3) program of the Wedge Community Co-op.)
Organic Field School Announces 2013 Incubator Farms: Bossy Acres and Humble Pie
NORTHFIELD, Minn. – October 23, 2012 – As part of the 2013 growing season, Organic Field School (OFS) at Gardens of Eagan will be home to two new incubator farms, Bossy Acres and Humble Pie, both focusing on organic growing practices and community involvement.
The organic farm incubator program was established by OFS in 2008 as a way to bolster the efforts of beginning farmers near the Twin Cities — who often face challenges in securing land for small-scale farming — while providing an educational connection point for the wider farming community and general public about the benefits of sustainable growing practices. OFS is the only farming incubator program in the state to offer up to three acres for new organic farmers to launch their businesses, and one of just a handful of such programs in the country. [Read more...]
Fazenda Boa Terra Hosts CSA Picnic
Fazenda Boa Terra is a CSA participating in the OFS incubator program, which is designed to help start new farms and new farmers get off the ground. Farmers John Middleton and Lidia Dungue hosted a picnic on a glorious summer day. [Read more...]