“The greatest lesson came with the realization that food cannot be reduced to single ingredients. It requires a web of relationships to support it” ~ Chef Dan Barber
Sultry summer winds carried the enticing aroma of local ingredients cooking over an open fire, while guests who share a mutual appreciation for sustainable food sourced close-by, strolled around the vast property before sitting down to enjoy a much anticipated dinner together. This is the type of event that I daydream about during the brisk Minnesota winters. Last month we attended our first farm dinner of 2021 at Iron Shoe Farm in Princeton. Carla Mertz, owner and operator of the farm is known for raising her animals ethically and for her firm commitment to sustainable agriculture. Her partnerships with nearby farmers and chefs are numerous and highly regarded. These farm dinners are a way to showcase fresh, locally grown ingredients through the creation of innovative and flavor-filled dishes. Carla’s association with local chefs, Minnesota Cooks and the Minnesota Farmers Union are the types of farm to fork relationships that give prominence to the essential nature of our local food community.
Continue reading FOOD AND WINE ON THE FARM: A SUSTAINABLE MINNESOTA DINING EXPERIENCE
“I was not a farmer by trade, but it’s in my blood” ~Carla Mertz
It has been my goal over the last two years to connect shoppers/diners/home cooks with the origin of their ingredients through my writing. I feel that documenting the journey from farm to table is important and it is why I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to share the stories of local farmers like Carla Mertz, Owner of Iron Shoe Farm in Princeton, MN. What follows is a meaningful narrative of hard work, dedication and resiliency. One where farmers like Carla have had to cultivate alternate methods of reaching out to buyers during the chaos of a pandemic while continuing to maintain their busy day to day farm schedules. Online ordering and a new mobile pantry are just a couple of the innovative ways she has been marketing her products (and the products of other purveyors as well) during this time. She communicated that while farming during COVID-19 has been quite a shift, it has also brought with it the opportunity to shine a light on the crucial aspect of sourcing food locally and the importance of looking out for each other.
Carla is staying focused on the positive. Her strong sense of responsibility and the aspiration to do good starts on her her farm, with her family and extends to the broader food community. She is extremely knowledgeable about the importance of sustainable agriculture and its relationship to the production of healthy, well-bred animals. She is an advocate for other Minnesota farmers and businesses. Partnerships are important, especially now. If she doesn’t have something that a restaurateur or customer is looking for, she doesn’t hesitate to connect them with someone who does. This is the just one example of the helpful collaborations that are taking place.
This focus on connection has its rewards. It has been well received by some chefs/buyers in the twin cities because they’ve learned that they can use Carla as a distributor. It’s also been a wake up call for us as consumers, who have seen empty grocery store shelves during this pandemic. We have become keenly aware that farmers are not just on the periphery of things, they are a bright light on the horizon during an unprecedented time. They are absolutely indispensable.
Continue reading Farm to table sustainability stories: Iron shoe Farm in Princeton, MN
“If you ate today, thank a farmer” ~ Author Unknown
Farmers are the chief essential officers and caretakers of our food supply and they should be celebrated as such. During this pandemic, adaptability and nimbleness have become essential to their survival, and ours. The fallout from COVID-19 has illuminated the critical nature of acquainting ourselves with exactly where our food comes from and how to access it. Our support for those who grow and source it is imperative. Farmers markets are categorized as essential grocery providers and have historically been a place for community to gather. They are the conduit to a healthy diet and now more than ever, they are one of the vital connections that link consumers to their local food chain.
Continue reading Shopping The Farmers Market Safely During COVID-19 + Seasonal Dishes Created With My Bounty From The Mill City Farmers Market
“If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you” – Steve Jobs
When we think about sustainability in the food and beverage realm, spirits haven’t typically been at the forefront of what comes to mind. Until now. Back in January, I attended the launch event for a USDA certified, Non-GMO organic vodka at Tattersall Distilling in Northeast Minneapolis. From seed to bottle, their vision and commitment to the creation of this ethereal spirit via the use of organic grains is something to be celebrated. Following that event, I had the opportunity to meet with Co-Founder and Chief Officer, Jon Kreidler for a tour and discussion. I am thrilled to be able to share the narrative of this organic vodka journey, as well as the various ways that Tattersall Distilling is making sustainable spirit production a central part of their mission.
Continue reading Tattersall Distilling: Leading The Way In Sustainable Spirits
“Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people” ~ Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Bushel Boy Farms is at the forefront of innovative indoor agriculture and has been “extending Minnesota’s growing season” for the past 30 years. Jay Johnson launched this business in Owatonna, Minnesota in 1990. Mr. Johnson began growing high quality tomatoes in his backyard and offering them to locals. As the demand for his distinctive tomatoes grew, he started selling them via food stands and to grocery stores in town. Bushel Boy amassed a large following and began building green houses in order to expand the thriving business. In 2018, Bushel Boy Farms was acquired by another Minnesota company, Shakopee-based Rahr Corporation. Rahr has provided the support to expand the assortment within the tomato category, but also look beyond tomatoes. Their drive to build off the rich history of growing premium quality tomatoes, along with the dedication to continue to innovate, has led to perhaps the most exciting 18 months in the company’s history. What follows is the story of how Bushel Boy Farms came to be one of the most well known and respected produce companies in MN.
Continue reading Bushel Boy Farms: A Minnesota Story Of Sustainable Agricultural Innovation
We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.” ~ Wendell Berry
It is my pleasure to introduce you to Farmer Tony Root (Anthony Schaden is his family name). If you’ve dined at any of the 9 marvelous restaurants within the Bartmann Group this summer, you’ve more than likely experienced the outcome of Tony’s endeavors. Tony is the farmer in charge of planting, growing and harvesting the bountiful produce exclusively for this restaurant group. Kim Bartmann leases a 1 acre plot at Riverbend Farm* in Delano, MN and Tony skillfully tends to all of it. Tony works with the chef’s to coordinate the distribution of the produce to all of these establishments during the summer/fall months. Kim Bartmann and her team have created a true farm-to-table framework that has been scaled to meet their demand. Continue reading Farm to Fork Stories: Meet Your Farmer, Tony Root
“If you ate today, thank a farmer”
I believe that getting to know the farmers who supply our food is imperative. It heightens our respect for the dedication and hard work that they put into what we consume. These interactions make the ingredients on our plates even more meaningful.
Two weeks ago I visited the 155 acre Hmong American Farmers Association Farm (HAFA) in Vermillion Township. This is an area that is heavily rooted in agriculture. The farm is located approximately 15 minutes south of St. Paul.
I learned of HAFA and the variety of programs they have been implementing while listening to Pakou Hang (Co-Founder and Executive Director of HAFA) speak on the panel at a Future of Food Tour event. This was hosted by Kerry Diamond, Editorial Director of Cherry Bombe. The event was held at the Lynhall in June and was part of their ongoing Wisdom Series. Shortly after the event I reached out to Pakou to hear more about the organization. Following our discussion I expressed interest in visiting the HAFA Farm.
Continue reading HAFA Farm Tour: Part 1 in a 2 part series