Family to grow organic produce for saleEating organic, farm-fresh produce at every meal is no easy task for most families. But a family of farmers southeast of Fertile, Minn., wants to change that.
By: Kaitlin Ring, Grand Forks Herald
Eating organic, farm-fresh produce at every meal is no easy task for most families. But a family of farmers southeast of Fertile, Minn., wants to change that.
The Lambrights, an Amish family of 14, plan to pick up where the Mount Saint Benedict Community Supported Agriculture Garden of Crookston left off. The Lambrights moved from southwestern Wisconsin to establish a community with seven or eight other Amish families because land prices were making small-scale farming difficult in Wisconsin. Stacy Erickson of the Fertile area helps the family with communication and transportation.
The sisters at the Mount Saint Benedict Monastery maintained the CSA garden as one of their outreach programs because they felt organic produce was inaccessible to many residents of the Red River Valley. Erickson said those in charge of the Mount Saint Benedict CSA had felt it was “time to move on.” As a result, Erickson said the CSA’s customers were worried they no longer would have access to their produce, which is when she and the Lambrights stepped in and took over.
As members of a CSA, customers purchase a share of the season’s produce. Each week, they distribute the fresh produce to drop-off points around the region. Customers have the option to purchase a full or half share. An average weekly share includes up to one bushel of different types of produce. The family anticipates a minimum of 15 weeks in their growing season, but that could increase to 20 weeks, depending on the weather. The breakdown of a share purchase averages about $20 per week.
“I’m excited to be part of the experience,” Erickson said. “I had no idea about everything that went into organic gardening until I got involved.”
John Lambright, 19, is the oldest son in the family and will be in charge of most of the growing. Lambright said the family grew produce in Wisconsin, as well, but on a much larger scale. Selling wholesale produce to Organic Valley, a large cooperative of family farmers, the Lambrights grew larger quantities of produce with less variety.
All of their farming is done with horse-drawn equipment or by hand, which Lambright said gives them a personal relationship with the produce they grow. With the ability to grow on a smaller scale, Lambright said the family looks forward to the opportunity to pay stronger attention to detail, grow smaller volumes of produce with a wider variety and sell directly to customers. This season, Lambright said the family plans to grow 100 different varieties of 40 different crops.
The Mount Saint Benedict CSA had more than 70 customers. When Erickson became involved with the CSA, she recognized how strong the push for locally grown organic food is among area residents. “Some customers had been involved for over 16 years,” she said. “It’s amazing to think that, in this area, a CSA is strong business with such a strong interest.”
Erickson said the goals of the CSA are to skip the stores and make food attractive. “You’re not just buying produce; as a customer, you have a say in the farming to an extent,” she said. “You can look in the field where your food is grown. It’s not just like buying food off the shelf at the store.”
The Lambright Family Farm has begun accepting memberships for the upcoming season, already receiving about 30 verbal commitments. Lambright says the family hopes to expand to 100 memberships after a few seasons.
“If a share isn’t right for someone, you’re still welcome to call and make arrangements,” Erickson said. “You don’t have to buy a share to get fresh produce, but it’s nice to know about other orders ahead of time so they can plant the crops.” Erickson said customers also can call about a week in advance to see if there’s a surplus of any vegetables available.
Erickson said she’s glad to be involved in keeping a CSA working in the area. “There’s a market for organic foods that’s already been here for years,” she said. “These things aren’t just out west on the coast. They’re happening in our own backyard.”
Ring is a reporting intern for the Grand Forks Herald. Reach Ring at 701-787-6754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.