Farmer

Tiny Farm Duluth

rad lettuceAt 40 years old, I finally began pursuing something I had dreamed of doing since I was a little kid: farming

However, I essentially have a Green Acres situation. In reverse. My wife is the only one keeping us from moving from the city to the country. Ironically enough, her stubborn refusal to move out to some real acreage is the main reason this farming dream is becoming reality. (It cracks me up to use a word like “dream” here. This lifestyle definitely does not include rainbow-farting unicorns. The work load and learning curve are just NUTS! Most people with a master’s degree crammed in their back pocket do not crave to be “a man of the soil.”)

Rather than incurring a quarter million dollars in debt, OR MORE, I am farming on borrowed/leased land in the city instead. Thus, the problem of my wife’s intractability, became the solution. It’s very likely that my farming dream would have remained a dream forever if it weren’t for her.

Critics might say, “This bastard is clearly having a midlife crisis!”

Yes, I am! Since being laid off from a corporate job three years ago—which had slowly sucked away at my soul for a solid decade—I’ve been groping along. I wrote a book that was well received, but that thing sure isn’t going to feed my family. At least not in the near future. I will continue to write for the newspaper and put out occasional books, but I am really excited about producing a high-quality consumable product that will keep customers returning week after week. Carving out a niche in the community is the goal. After publishing The Emancipation of a Buried Man I was blessed with amazing feedback, but it was frustrating to not have additional products to keep such supportive fans coming back for more.

I am striving to build a life for my family that is rooted in the rich soils of the land and  community. You will find us at the intersection of economy, community, and ecology. When you take meaningful economic exchange between neighbors out of the equation, I believe you lose all three. This is why the local food movement matters. A relationship between food producers and eaters helps to foster a healthy ecosystem. Of course, it also tastes great AND is better for you.

I started Tiny Farm Duluth in 2016, somewhat impulsively. Talk about work!

There was sod to remove:

1462068631760

Rocks in astounding numbers, and QUALITY:

IMG_1561

Endless preparation of the land:

Broadfork

It wasn’t terribly realistic to commit to farming in April, find and prepare land, and make actual money in the same season. I moved around largely by bike, and delivered fresh, nutrient-dense produce directly to a handful of families. I grossed something like a thousand bucks. With expenses, I’ll have to admit it wasn’t profitable.

IMG_1562

2017 should be different. I have received a USDA loan, which will afford a significant upgrade in infrastructure and equipment: a walk-in cooler, adequate irrigation, packing equipment, deer fencing, etc. Perhaps more importantly, I am selling at the Duluth Farmer’s Market each Saturday and Wednesday this season. I also have a growing number of restaurants purchasing my produce.

Quick growing crops, like lettuce, which can handle cool conditions, are staples…

butter-lettuce

Arugula, kale, beets, carrots, radishes, and spinach, all grow well here. They also have a quick turnover, which is important when you’re farming on just 6,000 square feet of land.

beets-1

beets-2

Unfortunately, the majority of the land pictured above is being sold. It doesn’t look like I’ll be able to reap the benefits of the soil I have worked so hard to improve, unless the buyer will be open to making an arrangement. For the sake of the business, I need to seek out other plots upon which to expand the farm.  The goal is to become multi-locational in my vegetable production, so as to ensure a land base for the future. If you have at least 1,000 square feet of available land to farm, ideally on the east side of Duluth, please contact me at 218-349-1098, Facebook, email, etc….

I also raise pastured chickens, about a hundred at a time, on land just outside the city. They are moved to fresh grass daily. The quality is unmatched, but holy mackerel they are a lot of work! Pigs, sheep, and bees are possibilities at some point. Time will tell.

At the moment, I’m producing microgreens in earnest. These are highly nutritious and incredibly tasty. Drop by the farmer’s market and give these a try…

pea and radish