Sogn Farm Project
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!
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.
Here’s a video to see it in action. Carrot Digger closeup
Thanks again to all the crew. Next week: the corn harvest begins!
Yesterday Danielle Piraino from The Food Group came to help make harvest plans for our carrots, corn and squash. The carrots are ready!! Two 650-foot rows of organically grown carrots to be distributed to families in need . . . with your help!
Danielle and Dana Jokela from Sogn Valley Farm helped make a plan to harvest the carrots next Thursday, August 12th. We need about 10-12 volunteers to help. Will you join us?
I've never harvested carrots but Smack did when he worked at the Hampshire College farm and he said it's really fun and satisfying. Come find out for yourself! Please call, text or email me if you'd like to join the fun.
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!
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.
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!).
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!
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.
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
What happened to all the squash harvested last Saturday? On Monday I took the pickup to Minnneapolis where Pillsbury United Communities Foodshelf, Joyce Uptown Food Shelf, Camden Promise Food Bank and The Evangelical Temple Food Bank in Maplewood (sorry, no link) all took as much as they felt their clients could use – my guess is around 700 pounds in all. Today I took the trailer and 5 totes on pallets to Channel One Regional Food Bank in Rochester which distributes food all across southern Minnesota, they weighed the totes for a total of 2,947 pounds. There are 4 more totes waiting to be delivered to Second Harvest Heartland on Friday.
This has been an amazing project and you can still help! Please join others in supporting this effort by donating funds to the Land Stewardship Project who will, in turn, reimburse our cooperating farmer, Dana Jokela, for his time, effort, equipment and fuel. Contributions are tax-deductible.
With some last-minute crew adjustments due to the pandemic we gathered a great group to harvest squash. A huge thank you to this stalwart crew who worked extra hard since 7 people who planned to help dropped out at midnight before the harvest due to a fever and Covid fears (so, far everyone’s OK).
Thanks to (L-R) Nat Case, Julie Young, Amy Shaw, Chris Bashor, Debra Goodlaxson, Maurine McCort, Tomas Goodlaxson, Barb Pratt, David Lee, Karen Kleinspen, Cindy Quehl, Mary Ann Quehl, Shirley (help me out someone!) and Gregory Rothweiler. On Monday the 28th part of the harvest was delivered to Channel One Regional Food Bank in Rochester and to the cooperating food banks in Minneapolis. On Friday October 2nd, the rest of this huge harvest will go to Second Harvest Heartland. I have no way to measure but I think this will be about 3 tons of fresh, prime squash for families in need. Once more, huge thanks to Dana Jokela of Sogn Valley Farm. This could never have happened without you.
A glorious September day and wonderful company made today’s corn picking a delight. Thanks to (L-R) Elizabeth Rowan, Dan “Daddy Squeeze” Newton, Beth Gilleland, Denny and Jonathan Carlson not only for hard work but entertaining conversation and camaraderie! The harvest was delivered to Camden Promise Food Shelf in North Minneapolis – they were again delighted to get freshly picked, top-quality produce since much of what is donated is nearing or past its expiration. Thanks everyone! More news on the project soon . . .
Today’s bounty was intended for Joyce Uptown Food Shelf but we picked more than they could handle. Pillsbury United Food Bank is closed on Friday and Camden’s Promise didn’t respond to my call – what to do? Call Kerry Jo Felder, of course, for a northside connection. Naturally, she’d just left Serenity Food Shelf herself! Thanks to (L-R) Babs Pilling, Amy Shaw, Chris Bashor, Barb Pratt and David Lee for wonderful company and conversation and a much bigger harvest than I had expected.