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Continued: Taste 50: It's the year of the farm

  • Article by: RICK NELSON , Star Tribune
  • Last update: June 5, 2013 - 2:02 PM

Warm and comfy
Minnesotans can thank a decidedly low-tech farming advancement — the hoop house — for the ever-increasing varieties of early arrivals at farmers market stands. Think greenhouse, except the hoop house is unheated, and crops grow directly in the ground. They can range from improvised, low-cost projects to professional-grade structures that require significant investment. Either way, they work, passively capturing the sun’s warmth under a protective layer of plastic. In the past, chilly Minnesota spring weather prevented Laura Frerichs and Adam Cullip, owners of Loon Organics in Hutchinson, Minn., from harvesting produce for their Mill City Farmers Market stand until the second week of June. After adding two hoop houses, they’ve pushed that date up nearly a month. Come summer, some plants thrive in the controlled environment, particularly tomatoes. The couple cultivate a half-dozen cherry-tomato varieties and 15 different slicing and heirloom types under a massive, cathedral-like hoop house. “It’s hard to grow tomatoes outside after you’ve grown them in a hoop house, because the conditions in the hoop house are so perfect for keeping tomato plants at the optimum happiness level,” said Frerichs. “It seems almost too easy sometimes.”

Future farmers of America
Where do immigrants and minorities go to learn about farming? To Big River Farms in Marine on St. Croix, where the nonprofit Minnesota Food Association has been running classroom and hands-in-dirt training for certified organic vegetable production. Since 2008, nearly 60 participants have matriculated through the program, enriching the local food scene. “There are many faces representing local organic produce in this community,” said farm manager Aaron Blyth. “It’s not just the old white guy on the tractor, but folks from Burma and Iran and Somalia, and Hmong and Latinos.”

Follow Rick Nelson on Twitter: @RickNelsonStrib

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