Farming

Inside Channel One's War

Squash Deliveries 2 & 3 – 5.5 tons so far!

By Bob | October 6, 2021 |
Unloading squash at Channel One

Unloading squash at Channel One

On Tuesday I delivered squash to Channel One Regional Food Bank in Rochester and today made another delivery to The Food Group. According to the receipts that’s 11,361 pounds of winter squash on its way to families in need. And there’s still more in the field! Once again, thanks to all who have helped with this project: Dana Jokela of Sogn Valley Farm (more detail in another post soon), all our volunteer harvesters plus John Beck who loaned the trailer and Danielle Piraino and Talia Miracle at The Food Group. It takes a village – thank you all!

Inside Channel One's Warehouse

Our squash inside Channel One’s Rochester warehouse

Where is all this squash going? Here is some information from Channel One Regional Food Bank that sheds some light on the work they do in 14 counties across southern Minnesota and Wisconsin in partnership with about 200 smaller agencies and food banks – plus direct service to Seniors and migrant families.

 

Squash 2021 – Great Crew and a Huge Harvest

By Bob | October 3, 2021 |
Squash harvest volunteers group photo

Squash Harvest Volunteers, 2021

This was one amazing year for squash. With the help of a huge volunteer crew we gathered north of 9,000 pounds of delicata, butternut and acorn squash. Over the next few days I’ll be bringing these to The Food Group (in New Hope) and Channel One (in Rochester) for distribution to food banks across the Twin Cities metro and Southern Minnesota. In addition to the work we also had a great potluck and music – it was a glorious day! Thank you to: Amy Shaw, Ann Farrell, Ari, Barb Pratt, Barb Rose, Benjamin Domask, Chris Bashor, Chuck Lentz, Dave Underhill, Deb Liang, Dug Nichols, Isaac, Joan Weber, Jon Freise, Kim Muehlbach, Matt Tillotson, Mike Muehlbach, Miriam Kowarski, Oswaldo, Pat O’Loughlin, Patti Nichols, Rachel FK, Sarah McCarthy,  and Sarah Purdy. This harvest was much, much bigger than last year’s so it was a lot more work. Thank you, one and all! (Sorry not everyone is included in the group photo, people came and went during the day.)

Unloading winter squash with a tractor

Dana Jokela offloads the first pallet of winter squash

We couldn’t do all this without help from Dana Jokela at Sogn Valley Farm. Dana’s expertise, help and equipment have been essential to this project. As you anc imagine, tractors, planters, cultivators and fuel are expensive. Please help me raise funds to pay Dana for all of his contributions. You can make a tax-deductible donation on this GiveMN page.

Loading squash in the field

Volunteers loading winter squash for food shelves.

Musicians playing at the squash harvest

Pat, Bob, Chris and Amy playing some tunes at the 2021 squash harvest

Musicians at the squash harvest

Chris, Bob, Amy and Pat play tunes during the 2021 squash harvest potluck

Half a Ton of Beets!

By Bob | September 14, 2021 |

Last Friday Dana Jokela of Sogn Valley Farm texted that he had about 1000 extra pounds of beets in his cooler and needed to move them to make space for coming

L-R Hans, Bob, David (standing), Adam

harvests. If I could get a crew to wash and pack them we could get them to The Food Group for distribution to Food Banks. On short notice David Robinson, Adam Brainerd and Hans Barkai responded to the call and got wet and muddy washing, packing and then delivering beets. Thanks guys!

You, gentle reader, can help with this project. Raising organic produce requires seed, machine work, fuel and more all of which cost money. Please help fund this project with a contribution on this GiveMN webpage. Funds will be used to reimburse Dana for the direct costs of this project. Thanks!

Showing beets being delivered to The Food Group

20 Totes full of beets delivered to The Food Group

Big Crew, Big Harvest

By Bob | August 31, 2021 |

A perfect morning for harvesting and what a group of friends! Thanks to (L-R) Cara, Barb, Vi, Miles, Samson, Roger, Chuck, Barb, Eric, Robin, Dug and Daisy plus (not pictured) Jo, Julie and Jenny. Today’s harvest supplied three food banks: Sabathani, Joyce Uptown and Pillsbury United Communities.

Eric, Dug, Daisy, Julie and Barb (and Samson in Barb’s shadow!) picking corn for food banks

Delivering corn to Pillsbury United Communities

For perspective, Matthew Ayres, director of the Joyce Uptown Foodshelf, told me they serve about 450 families per month a total of around 36,000 pounds of food. Joyce is the smallest of the three food banks who took corn today. According to the StarTribune  there are about 350 food banks in Minnesota that collectively served 3.8 million people in 2020 (a 7% increase over 2019). Hard to imagine that a state with so much farmland has so much hunger.

Pickin’ in the Rain

By Bob | August 25, 2021 |

It was a soggy Tuesday but our intrepid crew harvested corn for the good folks at the Gethsemane Lutheran Church Food Shelf in the Camden neighborhood (AKA Camden Promise) of North Minneapolis. Thanks to Cara Rodriguez, Sarah McCarthy and Jon Freise who braved downpours, mud and occasional lightening (not too close!), to harvest corn for the food bank.

Gethsemane’s food shelf provides thousands of pounds of food to individuals and families in North Minneapolis with food distributions six days a week. I’ve seen people lined up around the block awaiting their turn and fresh, top-quality sweet corn is welcome indeed.

2021 First Corn Harvest

By Bob | August 19, 2021 |

Wow! What a day, what a crop, what volunteers! Our first corn harvest of 2021 was fabulous. Thanks to Cara, Erika, Julie, Lizette, Sarah M and Sarah P who collectively picked around 1,000 pounds of fresh, plump, organically-grown sweet corn which was promptly delivered to Pillsbury United Communities in the Phillips neighborhood and then . . . the plan was to deliver to Joyce Uptown foodshelf who earlier had said they’d be happy to have it but when I got there a sign on the door said they were closed due to a Covid-19 outbreak. But the sign also suggested calling Groveland Food Bank which I did and they took the remainder of the load (thanks, Jay!).

Would you like to help? We still need hands for next Tuesday, August 24th!

Pullin’ Carrots 2021

By Bob | August 12, 2021 |

It was a gorgeous day for pulling, washing and packing carrots! Big thanks to our hearty crew: Barb, Cara, Danielle, Dillon, Erika, Hannah and Itzel. In less than three hours we pulled, packed and washed two 650-foot rows of organically-grown carrots (hundreds of pounds!). The Food Group will distribute these to families in need and I’ll provide the details in a later post. For now, feast your eyes on the fine work these folks did today.

Dana Jokela from Sogn Valley Farm lifts our carrots with his carrot lifter

Here’s a video to see it in action. Carrot Digger closeup

Hands full of carrots!

Here’s a video of the Carrot Washer

L-R Hannah, Bob, Danielle, Dillon, Barb, Itzel, Erika, Cara

Of course our new farm dog, Jenny, has to help!

 

Thanks again to all the crew. Next week: the corn harvest begins!

Foodshelf Project 2021

By Bob | July 14, 2021 |

Encore! Last year’s foodshelf project was so successful we’re doing it again. Once again Dana Jokela from Sogn Valley Farm has helped with planting and tillage (more on that later). Here are a few photos of the progress to date. It’s already been an “interesting” season. More details below the photos. First, take a look at the lovely progress so far:

Here’s a bit of what’s happened so far.

Adventure 1: We planted corn in early June but . . .  seed corn maggot! Since we’re organic and can’t use treated seed the critters ate virtually the entire planting. Must have gotten lucky last year but this year we had to change plans quickly and start the corn plants in Dana’s greenhouse then transplant them (like we do the squash).

Adventure 2: Carrots need water to germinate. We planted when the forecast looked promising but . . . it changed. Dana loaned me a drip tape and I ran hoses out to the field. Then I had to soak the 2 rows repeatedly over several days which required moving the drip tape back and forth (only about a foot as you can see in the photos). This went on for about a week . . .

Adventure 3: The squash plants got transplanted right before the June heatwave. Had to move the drip tape from the carrots over to the squash. One drip tape (about 650 feet long), eight rows of squash. This required moving the drip tape every 3-4 hours so every row would get water every couple of days. Kept this up (through the nights – hooray for headlamps!) until the heat wave broke.

There’s more, of course, but it’s already been quite a season. We’ll see how it goes from here . . .

Thanks for reading. Further updates soon!

So What? Foodshelf Project Final Wrap-up

By Bob | October 18, 2020 |

With only a few chores left in the fields, I want to reflect on this project and share a few of the things I learned.

It takes a village! First and foremost, this project could not have happened without Dana Jokela of Sogn Valley Farm. I freely admit to being a farmer wannabe. Dana is the real deal. He chose the varieties, placed the seed order, tilled, planted and helped with the cultivation. Please, help us reimburse Dana for his expenses (fuel, equipment, time and all) by contributing to this GoFundMe campaign (contributions are tax-deductible).

Besides Dana there were 63 volunteers who came and helped harvest – some several times. There were laughs, stories and a fair bit of mud, but most of all there was a shared joyous and generous spirit which was uplifting in these dark times. Again, my sincere thanks to all the volunteers.

Staff and volunteers from Pillsbury United Communities visiting our farm

We also had help from both staff and volunteers at the food shelves. Special shout-outs to Heidi Coe at Second Harvest for making so many connections, and to Ethan and Jovinta not only for their work at Pillsbury United Communities, but for bringing some of their staff to the farm for a farm to food bank connection (and even a little tractor driving!).

10,ooo pounds of food is a drop in the bucket. When I took a trailer load of squash to Second Harvest, what seemed like a lot of squash on the farm looked pretty tiny surrounded by 18-wheelers full of donated food (there are 35 loading doors at that facility!).

Offloading squash at Second Harvest

On their website Second Harvest Heartland reports that before the pandemic one in 11 Minnesota families was food insecure. Currently, it’s one in 8. No wonder the various foodshelves were so delighted to get our little contribution. (It should be noted also that much of what is donated is near or past its sell-by date and our donations were top-quality, fresh and organically grown – the good stuff!).

Carbon Footprint and Agriculture in 2020. We used a lot of fossil fuels. Tractors and trucks in the fields and delivering, and many cars bringing socially distanced volunteers to the farm and home again. Yes, it was do-able this year, but the cost to the environment is troubling and the reliance on non-renewable resources is unsustainable. It gives me pause.

When straight-line winds knocked our corn sideways in late July, we got lucky: the corn’s natural response helped the plants largely recover from the damage. Up the hill, Dana was not so lucky. One of his mainstay cash crops, sweet and hot peppers, was largely destroyed by the same storm. He’d already tilled, amended the soil, planted and cultivated –  in other words, he’d invested time and treasure into the crop which was nearly ready to harvest. Then one two-hour storm wiped it out. He estimated a $100,000 loss from that one storm. But crop insurance effectively does not exist for farmers like Dana. The government’s “Get big or get out” policies protect the thousand-plus acre commodity farmers and leave small and medium scale organic and family farms like Sogn Valley with no protection. I see this not only as an issue of survival for family farms like Dana’s but as a threat to the resilience of our local food supply: we can’t eat the corn and soy that’s protected by the government’s policies. That’s nuts.

I’d like to do this again next year, but should we? I’m sure there will still be a huge need for donated food in a year’s time, but where will we be with the pandemic? Will people want to come out and harvest for food shelves? Is there a way to do this with a smaller carbon footprint? Can we raise enough money to cover Dana’s real costs? I don’t need to decide until it’s time to place a seed order, but I welcome thoughts and opinions at any time.

This has been a joy. Thanks again, everyone!

10,000 Pounds!

Foodshelf Project Wrapup #1 – The Numbers

By Bob | October 6, 2020 |

With the last of the squash delivered to Second Harvest Heartland, it’s time to “do the numbers”. Here, for your (and my) edification are some stats on the Food Shelf project.

About 10,000 pounds of fresh, organically grown food

991 pounds of sweet corn and 5539 pounds of squash weighed on delivery to the big food banks plus 9 pickup truck loads delivered to the smaller food banks with no specific documentation.

63 Volunteers

Mark Sloo, Mindy Sloo, Myranda Sloo, Ayva Sloo, Addie Rosenwinkel, Robin Nelson, Eric Nelson, Chuck Lentz, Andy Vaaler, Caroline Vaaler, Luca Gunther, Roger Cuthbertson, Sarah York, Ida York, Ann Iijima, Oscar Brooks, Lauren Brooks, Evra Brooks, Smack Young Walser, Sarah Purdy, Dan Newton, Elizabeth Rowan, Beth Gilleland, Jon Carlson, Denny Carlson, Babs Pilling, Chris Bashor, Amy Shaw, Barb Pratt, David Lee, Familia Calixto, Familia de la Rosa, Familia Jarquin, Familia Martinez, Familia Ramírez, Mike Muelbach, Angie Erdrich, Erinn Liebhard, Miriam Kowarski, Gonne Asser, Clara, Elie, Julia, Nora, Talia, Jordan Fields, David Fields, Trenne Fields, Cynthia Quehl, Mary Jo Quehl, Debra Goodlaxson, Tomas Goodlaxson, Maurine McCort, Nat Case, Gregory Rothweiler, Shirly (?)

19 Financial Supporters (so far)

You can still chip in! The GoFundMe page does not display all the contributors, btw.

7 Food Banks served

Channel One Regional Food Bank (distributes to food banks across southern Minnesota)
Second Harvest Heartland (distributes to food banks in the Twin Cities)
Pillsbury United Communities Food Shelf
Joyce Uptown Food Shelf
Camden Promise Food Bank
Serenity Community Food Shelf
Evangelical Temple Food Bank (no link)

Extra Thanks to

Heidi Coe at Second Harvest Heartland,
Mark at Channel One Regional Food Bank
Laurie at Joyce Uptown Food Bank
Pastor Jeff and the perspicacious Joyce at Camden Promise
Kerry Jo Felder for the Serenity Connection
Ethan Neil and Jovinta at Pillsbury United Communities