Putting 2022 to Bed

By Bob | October 25, 2022 |

End of the season 2022

Last Saturday was sunny and warm so I chopped the cornstalks and got the field ready for winter. This is the field where we grew sweetcorn, winter squash and pumpkins – all tidied up. 2022 was a grand season with over 15,000 lbs of food donated to 8 local and 2 regional food banks plus over 667 pumpkins donated to Kenwood Elementary School (harvested, washed and transported by student and parent volunteers). Many thanks to our army of volunteers and contributors – we couldn’t do this without you! (more after the pumpkin photos)

But hold on! It’s not too late! You can still be part of the project: we need to raise about $6,000 to pay our cooperating organic farmer, Dana Jokela of Sogn Valley Farm for his time, equipment, fuel and staff that helped get our crops in the ground. As of this writing we’re well on our way but please go to this GiveMN page and help put the season to bed (donations are tax-deductible and pass through The Food Group, one of our food bank partners).

Tractor view of chopping corn (click to play)

It’s a joy and a privilege to grow and share good food and it confounds me that in our rich, prosperous and fertile state there is so much need, so much hunger. One of our cooperating food banks, Channel One in Rochester, distributes a million pounds of food every month to food banks in southern Minnesota. A million pounds every month!

As long as this is true there is a need for our contributions. Again, please help out if you can, the need is enormous. You can donate on this GiveMN page.

And thank you.

Tons and Tons of Squash!

By Bob | September 28, 2022 |

A perfect harvest day greeted our 21 volunteers (and two dogs) on Saturday. In a bit over 4 hours we harvested nearly 6 tons (!!) of butternut, delicata and acorn squash which was delivered to The Food Group in the Twin Cities and Channel One Regional Food Bank in Rochester. These organizations distribute food to smaller food shelves in the Twin Cities and southeast Minnesota, respectively. Here’s a quick video of the team in action:

Squash Harvest Video

And here’s the hearty harvest crew. Huge thanks to (left to right) Julie (and Jenny), Nat Case, Cara M Rodriguez, Greg Soucha, Sarah Purdy, Mike Muehlbach (and Chuck), Isaac, Kim Muehlbach, Sarah York, Ari, Oswaldo Alvarado, Hans Barkei, Theresa Taylor, Sarah Furniss, Sarah McCarthy, Suzanne Rhees, Robin Murie, Jon Freise, Barb Pratt, Rachel FK, Marjorie Kostouros and Quinn McCauley.

Squash Harvest Volunteers, September 24th, 2022

On Monday and Tuesday I had the honor of delivering the squash to our food bank partners. For the record, the delivered weight of squash was: The Food Group delivery #1: 3,814 lbs; Channel One: 3,806 lbs; The Food Group #2: 4,076 for a grand total (so far) of 11,696 lbs! Here is some of the squash at The Food Group’s warehouse:

A portion of our winter squash in The Food Group’s warehouse

I went back to the farm yesterday and filled the pickup with another several hundred pounds of squash and all this is in addition to the estimated two tons of sweet corn we donated this year.

Of course, none of this would be possible without Dana Jokela of Sogn Valley Farm. Dana’s knowledge and counsel have been essential to our success and his equipment: greenhouses for growing baby squash and corn plants, tractors and tools for tillage and transplanting – have been the backbone of this whole endeavor. Please help us raise funds to help pay for Dana’s time, equipment and – significantly – fuel for his work on this project. Please donate on this GiveMN page.

Thank you!

A Grand Corn Finale 2022

By Bob | September 4, 2022 |

Three workers from Pillsbury United Communities accepting sweet corn donation

Mohamud, Ibsa and Ganga accepting corn donation at the Brian Coyle Center

The Division of Indian Work in Minneapolis

Last Friday saw a stupendous finish to this year’s corn season: a far bigger harvest than I expected after Tuesday’s fabulous haul. The corn was shared with the Division of Indian Work on Lake Street and the food shelf at the Brian Coyle Center (a new location for us but part of Pillsbury United Communities who a a regular collaborator) who were expecting 400 families over the weekend.

Huge thanks to Dulce de la Rosa for organizing the family work crew including Juan, Dan and José plus sister Mayela with her daughter, another Dulce to keep me confused. Welcome to new volunteer Rosa Morales and thanks yet again to our stalwart, never-miss-a-chance Cara Rodriguez.

L-R: Cara Rodriguez, Rosa Morales, Juan, Dulce de la Rosa, Dulce, Mayela de la Rosa, Dan

It was another great day for huitlacoche which both Dulce and Mayela know how to prepare.

Huitlacoche or "corn smut"


When the work was done Juan fired up the grill and Dulce provided carne asada, tortillas, salad and horchata for everyone. Then there was music and even Jenny (our dog) got to join in the fun!

A Sparkling Harvest

By Bob | August 31, 2022 |

L-R: Cara Rodriguez, Beth Gilleland, Jon Carlson, Denny Carlson, Charlie

With glorious August sun and a bald eagle circling overhead our hearty volunteers gathered another generous harvest for Pillsbury United Communities and Groveland Food Shelf. Thanks to Beth Gilleland who organized a family work party including Jon and Denny Carlson plus soon-to-be 5th grader, Charlie. We were joined by the indefatigable Cara Rodriguez as well (100% harvest attendance to date!). I was delighted to find the harvest even better than I expected and the usual hour and a half stretched a bit longer followed by gathering some produce from the garden and a bit of squash harvesting for the volunteers! A perfect morning at the farm. And then . . .

Once again it was a party at Pillsbury United Communities where Jovita and her crew enthusiastically loaded the corn into boxes and crates for distribution that very afternoon. Then off to Groveland Food Shelf where Jay and his team swiftly gathered the rest of the harvest into large barrels.

I was struck, yet again, by the scale of need and the great work these food banks do. Groveland Food Shelf serves over 5,000 individuals each month, Pillsbury United Communities has two locations and typically serves about 100 families a day and over 200 on peak days. According to the StarTribune, 2020 saw the largest use of food shelves on record and those I work with at the various food banks report that usage has not dropped off as the pandemic situation has changed.

As in years past, there are cash costs associated with this project most associated with tools, fuel, and labor by Dana Jokela and at Sogn Valley Farm. Thank you for stopping by this blog and please hop over to this GiveMN page to help us raise funds to pay Dana for his essential contributions! Thanks!

Harvest photos courtesy of Beth Gilleland – Thanks, Beth!