Tag: Farm to Table

The Good Acre: Full Circle Food Hub

The Good Acre (TGA) provides Full Circle Local Food System Support. From soil to your table, TGA is there implementing the organization’s mission:

“We connect and strengthen farmers, food makers, and communities through good food.”

This is the place you can learn how to make kimchi, pick up a farm share with locally made add-ons, attend a beginning farmers conference, volunteer in a hoop house or find your child’s school lunch staff kicking up their culinary skills. Full circle!

There is also a contagious positivity running through those artfully slanted walls that makes it all gel.

I stumbled upon this powerhouse operation online while looking up local CSA’s. Turns out Community Supported Agriculture is the perfect term for part of what happens here, but The Good Acre goes way beyond the traditional CSA.

What is a Food Hub Anyway?

Farm Share Packing Day

food hub, as defined by the USDA, is “a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.”

The thing that the USDA missed in its definition is the community that takes root around an initiative like this. There are farmers who would not be making it if it weren’t for TGA. In 2016 around 65,000 pounds of food moved through the facility. That’s 65,000 pounds of food that traveled significantly less than the average 1,500 miles. Hello lowered carbon footprint.

Food Hubs like TGA aren’t prolific, and that may be in part because for now, they rarely turn a profit. They are often funded in part by donations, grants and in the case of TGA- significant support from the Pohlad Family Foundation.

There’s so much shaking at TGA on any given day, that’s it’s easy to overlook one of the ways they bring good food to the community. So, let’s break down how they put the mission into action.

Cala Farms

The Good Acre has a dedicated staff member to do farm visits and help with things from building soil fertility to crop planning for the items TGA has contracted to buy.  Staying up to date on the latest farm safety protocol and working with wholesalers on behalf of the farmers they partner with is another piece of the pie. Another thing that shows TGA’s support to making lasting change in the local food system is:

Grower Support Specialist, David VanEeckhout
“He’s been an organic farmer for over 20 years and helps our farmers implement sustainable and organic practices on their farm that will help them with pest management, soil fertility, and more.”

Photo credit: The Good Acre

They also tend three hoop houses of varying sizes and strengths as testing grounds for farmers interested in growing some seasonally-extended crops. They are used for instructional purposes, and supply berries, ginger, peppers and tomatoes to local food makers such as Chow Girls and You Betcha Kimchi.

Galen and crew brewing Kimchi

They have both dry storage, cooler and freezer storage spaces available for rent. This type of space is hard to come by,  which Galen Kanazawa, of Fierce Ferments,can attest to that, “The Good acre offered us affordable and convenient storage space. Being able to make as much as we need to with no space limitations enabled us to scale up to a warehouse distribution level of business. Additionally, they helped us gain a higher profile by getting our name out there in front of some bigger accounts that we otherwise likely wouldn’t have noticed us.”

Photo credit: The Good Acre

Farm Share:
The new TGA CSA, Power in numbers. Simply pooling farmers produce and offering it up in a carefully curated box each week is another way TGA connects local community with the local good food. Because they work with a variety of ‘often’ organic farms you can expect to see up to 70 varieties of produce over the course of the season this year! Because of their close relationships with many local makers (like produce from their farmers, then made in their kitchens) they are able to offer some great “add-ons” to their farm share as well- like fresh eggs, bread, kombucha, kimchi and the like. More info HERE.

Sound like the perfect option for you? Sign up for their 18 week Farm Share HERE!

TGA works with wholesale accounts in hopes the good food coming through their doors is spread wide and far. They work with a handful of local wholesalers, and increasingly, schools and hospitals, YAY! *we still have a long way to go on bringing this into the mainstream*

White Bear Lake Schools kitchen staff perfecting their roasting skills. Photo credit: The Good Acre

This hit close to home when I realized TGA had directly effected my kid’s lunchroom. Turns out TGA worked with our local White Bear Lake school district’s kitchen staff on how to cook with the local produce they are procuring through their wholesale program. “The Good Acre currently works with over a dozen area school districts, all of which have the opportunity to bring their Nutrition Service staff members in for training on scratch cooking techniques and development of healthy recipes scaled up for the lunch line and suited to kids tastes”, offers Nikki Warner, TGA marketing manager. A food hub that can offer locally grown produce and training on how to prepare it really is a win/win for our schools and our kids. This awesome service is funded by the USDA Farm to School Grant TGA was awarded in 2017. Keep it coming!

I’m jumping up on my soap box now:
This is such a great way to start that sea change in moving towards making local food systems sustainable. When we ask for healthier, local foods on our children’s lunch menus it has an effect that takes root. A child may be offered that food for a first time, or know the food and get others excited about it. Of course kids are always going to get excited for sweets, but they do get excited for brussel sprouts too- when they taste good. I love that TGA is there for the full circle from working with the farmers, the wholesalers and the kitchen staff to implement real change in the way our kids view food. I’m jumping back down now.

“We believe that the more that we can connect local makers to our network of growers, the more equitable, vibrant and resilient our local food system will be.”  The Good Acre website

Making Mushroom Jerky!

Commercial Kitchen: Rental
With Food safety laws as they stand, if you’re going to sell food in a store you need to make it in a commercial kitchen. Which is good for public health, but bad for start-up companies. Introducing the shared space commercial kitchen. These kind of ‘rentable’ kitchens are popping up in more places all over the country, there’s even a website, Food Corridor, that connects makers with kitchen space. These spaces give small companies, like ProCured Mushroom Jerky  a chance to break into the local wholesale and institutional markets. TGA currently rents this space out to 15 different makers every month. If you’re interested in adding your name to the growing list of renters- find more info HERE.

Commercial Kitchen: Classes

Ready to make my own yogurt thanks to Iman Mefleh of You Bethca Kimchi

I just took my first TGA class, a DIY yogurt class and I have to tell you the instructor made us all feel right at home in that stainless steel kitchen.  I’ve gone to some other cooking classes before and this felt more approachable and laid back- but with so many great tips and tricks thrown in there by Iman Mefleh of You Bethca Kimchi that is was worth every penny. Julia Cohen, the Culinary Support Specialist, is pumped about the wide variety of offerings in their kitchen, “We offer cooking classes truly ‘for the people’, our classes are approachable and our instructors are some of the best around.”

I was really impressed with how much information I walked away with for a very reasonable price. They offer tons of classes, on everything from Pho to kitchen skills ‘boot camp’. The best place to keep up with their class offerings is their TGA Facebook page. I can’t wait to go back and try something else new. If you become addicted to their classes, they have a Cooks Club membership that saves you money on multiple classes and gets you some awesome perks. For now, I’m excited I know what to do with the extra whey in my yogurt!

Maker to Market:
You guys, this program makes me so happy. It’s genius in its simplicity- and beautiful in its heart.  From the website:  “Lakewinds Food Co-op and The Good Acre have partnered under a shared purpose: bring new and diverse slow food products to the world as we strengthen our food community as a whole. We help independent food makers hit the ground running. We source ingredients from small, local, and disadvantaged farmers to cultivate our local food economy. And we give consumers amazing new choices at shelf. It’s a win-win-win.”

From Senoras de Salsa,to Caldo Foods sauces and spices, the results are delicious!

They are currently accepting applications for the 2nd Maker to Market! More info HERE.

mix and match fingerlings

Bringing  Food + Community Full Circle
This is one lean, mean food systems machine. Nestled into the east side of the Twin Cities Metro, and across the street from some U of MN test fields, TGA add such value to the food we eat, the farmers in our midst and the future of food systems.

Implementing the “Frost Mob” was another way I tried to get involved this past year. Interested in helping local farmers quickly gather crops threatened by unexpected frosts? Or maybe you’re interested in volunteering in another way? You can let their spunky marketing manager, Nikki Warner know by emailing her.

In so many ways they are doing the heavy lifting of laying a solid foundation. They’re working to make small farms viable thanks to the Pohlad Family Foundation, some large grants and individual donations. They hope to be self sufficient, and what will help that to happen is for us consumers to vote with our dollars. You’ve heard that before, but we can use our dollars not only to buy from local farmers via Farm Shares and  farmers markets,  but the larger food movers, the wholesale food side– like restaurants, school lunch programs, hospitals and other institutional wholesale opportunities.

Asking where your food comes from is a Good place to start.

I am a huge proponent of the Farmers Market and CSA (or TGA’s Farm Share) but thinking about making small farms secure far into the future we’ll need to do more than buy a few tomatoes from a few of them every week; we need to find a way for local to be necessary – not a luxury.

I can’t wait to Dig In to making my own yogurt. Thank you to The Good Acre for  doing Good Work!


Winter Farmers Market Tomorrow!

I wouldn’t want you to miss out on all the food!

The first White Bear Lake Winter Farmers market is tomorrow, Saturday December 9th from 10am-2pm, at Tamarack Nature Center. Link to map and directions HERE.

This is a one day only event and a great way to fill your holiday tables and check off gifts with sustainable items from your neighbors.

HERE is a previous post all about the market, from vendors and community tables to the donated apple cider.

The Facebook Page, HERE will continue to have updates, like this  basket of goodies I’ll be raffling off at the market!

Thanks for following along on this journey to find good, simple, local food- I truly appreciate it.

Can’t wait to Dig Into the food this Saturday!

**Looking forward to sharing recipes made with all the local food I bring home from this market!**



Veggies from the Burbs

I did a double take when Don Heinel told me where his land was – Little Canada you say? But it turns out, not knowing the farm was there was the just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce).

Don has been doing this a while- like his whole life. Being out in the fields has given him plenty of time to think things through. And his willingness to share (but not preach about) what he’s come up with so far is refreshing and contagious!

Don with some happy sweet corn

At first glance Don may seem a bit gruff, he’s admittedly “not a big smiler”, but don’t let that fool you. He’s one big ‘Veggie Bear’, (favorite nickname I’ve come up with so far) who is a passionate steward of his land, dedicated to bringing lovingly grown food to market for you to enjoy.

He’s found his own balance of ‘common sense’ farming techniques that bring him high yields without much chemical application. He uses Neem oil and other organic applications when needed, but finds that prevention is the best medicine. He practices crop rotation, letting land lie fallow (not planting anything on it) and pays close attention to water drainage issues (standing water weakens plants and harbors bugs, dry land stresses plants and lowers yields).

While Don was walking me around his farm I saw lady bugs, dragon flies and weeds- not in abundance but enough to know there are no herbicides being sprayed on the row crops, or pesticides taking out the insects. Birds were flying in to grab some snacks of their own too.

No, he’s not Certified Organic.

Don doesn’t care to be certified organic, especially with selling directly to his customers at market. Selling direct gives him a chance to talk with you all and explain the nuances of organic, conventional, sustainable, and where he falls with best practices. For him, the certification is just a lot more paperwork and red tape without the payoff.

Don urges us all to find out more about the way food is grown, starting with the simple fact that, yes- organic pesticides do exist! I learned about the “OMRI” because of him. The OMRI, the Organic Materials Review Institute, “supports organic integrity by developing clear information and guidance about materials, so that producers know which products are appropriate for organic operations,” directly from the OMRI Website. Cool Beans.

The Way Back Story

Don’s a 4th generation farmer whose family has been farming for over 100 years and working this same land since 1939, and farmed in Roseville prior to that. Keeping that same 17 acres in the family for all those years means that Don’s farm is a lot closer to the metro area than most new farmers could hope for; not in today’s real estate market. It also means he knows his land like the back of his hand. He showed me ‘the hill’; a barely visible rise in one section of field and explained how just that rise makes it too dry to plant. He also explained when and where he recently changed row direction from E/W to N/S and just how that will affect water drainage, and how he wait until just after the dirt stops clumping (into what he calls dirt ‘potatoes’) after a tilling to plant.

It’s obvious he paid attention to his chores as a kid on the farm, and spoke to making a conscious decision to stay and farm because of the freedom of choice it allowed him. What and where to plant, who to sell it to, how much is a fair price; these choices and the time outside are a good fit for Don.

Don has sold produce under the Heinel Farm name since 1988 at the fall White Bear Lake Farmer’s Market, the first year it started. He also used to sell wholesale but gave that up after witnessing the increasing hoops farmers had to go through, and the increasing liability insurances etc. they had to take on to continue selling that way. Markets might take a little more work, but they are proving more rewarding too.

Farming Today

His wife, Shari, while following her own career path, helps where she can and is his technical support, answering emails and posting to their Facebook page and all the other tasks that keep the company running. They make a great team and can be seen together at different Farmer’s Markets throughout the week.

Don at the White Bear Lake Farmer’s Market

Don’s father was his main mentor and business partner until he became ill. He passed away in 2015. His father was also the one who suggested Don start taking it easy, helping Don make the decision towards ‘semi-retirement’. Although, once I understood his schedule a little, there’s no way the average person would call that being ‘semi-retired’! He still gets up early, works in the fields most mornings and is at market 3 times a week. Logistically this meant quitting the Minneapolis market so he didn’t have markets on the weekends. (whew!)

Heinel Farm Summer 2017 Market Schedule

Mondays: Little Canada Farmer’s Market: 2:30-6pm

Tuesdays: Shoreview Farmer’s Market: 3-7pm

Fridays: White Bear Lake Farmer’s Market: 8-12pm


Nothing like a few green beans to munch while we walked!

In Don’s words “Weather and Critters are the two biggest issues for farmers.” And this year he’s dealt with both. Although his farm was lucky enough to escape damage from the hail storm on June 11 he was still catching up from what he referred to as the “7 days of death” the cold rainy yuck that hung around the Twin Cities in early May. His critter problems include the typical racoons, deer and rabbits along with a crow that has been bugging him for years on end.

Don shared one of his favorite quotes with me, and now I’m sharing it with you…

Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.   -Dwight D Eisenhower

Don checking tomatoes in the High Tunnel.

Critters are one of the reasons he invested in a high tunnel. He uses that for tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers; and low tunnels for cucumbers and zucchini. He also starts a *few* plants; 20 flats that each have 162 cells each – that’s 3,240 seedlings to transplant. And with those seedlings and direct sowing he fills the 17 acres (except what he lets lie fallow) with all kinds of beets, squash, sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, fennel, bush beans, broccoli, lettuces, kale, cauliflower, zucchini and cucumbers. Yum.

He likes going it alone, and stated, “There’s a certain something to doing it all on my own.” I think he enjoys the peace and solitude of the farm just as much as he enjoys seeing his customers on market days.

Another one of the choices he’s glad he gets to make is being able to give extra produce to the food shelves in the area. In 2016 the farm donated 2,662 pounds of beautiful, Minnesota Grown veggies to the White Bear Area Emergency Food Shelf, and a similar amount to the Ralph Reeder Food Shelf of New Brighton. That’s a few heads of fresh and local broccoli that went to our neighbors in need! Thank you Don and Shari!

If you’re interested in seeing a vegetable farm up close and personal, Don has shown others around for a nominal fee based on availability. He showed me how to wrap a cauliflower (below) so I can try to grow my own next year 🙂 and I still have things to look up from our time together.

I mean, this is the guy who gets spinach to winter over so it shoots out of the ground before anything else, I’m going to listen to his tips! Of course, like all smart businessmen, Don won’t tell a soul how he gets the spinach to grow or which seed variety he uses. And I have to say; good for you Don, I think you’ve earned this one!

My youngest, picking out his cucumber from Farmer Don, aka “The Veggie Bear”

After visiting Heinel Farm and seeing all the flourishing veggies, it gave me a little push to figure out ways to grow happier veggies in my own garden- and to know which ones I’ll leave to the experts.

Either way, I can’t wait to dig into the summer surplus flooding our farmer’s markets from farms just like Don and Shari’s!


Forks’ Weekend Spread: July!

Twin Cities farm & foodie fans, here we go again with an over the top summer weekend overflowing with possibilities. And this time, I’ll be here to partake in the farm fresh tastes, sounds and celebrations! Time to jump on this hay wagon and enjoy the ride 🙂

July 15: Eat Local Co-op Farm Tour 

The barn doors are wide open. Twin Cities co-ops have gathered 27 of their hard-working farmers together to open their farms, fields, milking rooms etc. to you for the day. Use this Farm Tour guide to map out your self guided tour and see which farms have special activities, music, even samples that match your interest. This is a great FREE way to let your kid milk their first cow, see actual farm work being done, pull their first carrot and talk to farmers about how they farm. Be ready to stock up on farm fresh produce-right from the farm! Last year my boys and I experienced a great sense of community at Big River Farms,  along with a great wagon ride, samples and music. We bought a few things that had been picked right from the fields we toured. This year they’ve added a little something extra with pollinators! I remember it as one of best days with my boys last summer.

Wagon riders at last year’s Big River Farms’ tour day.

Tips: Wear farm appropriate clothing (farm boots, sun hat), bring along some bug spray, a cooler for things you buy and a lunch if you want. Learn from my mistake last summer! Print out a google map, because these are RURAL farms, you may lose service once you’re on the road!

Stay up to the minute and Follow on Facebook. TC.Farm (also featured below in the Tullibee Butcher Dinner) went the extra acre this year and created their own guide; which looks awesome!

Details: 10am-4pm. 31 locations across the extended metro area.

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Forks’ Weekend Spread: June

Another Minnesota Summer is in full bloom with the rain + heat doing their thing for the plants (and in spite of the nasty storms)! Get out there and make hay while the sun is shining. This line up of Twin Cities Metro area farm and food offerings over the upcoming weekend has something for everyone; not to mention the Famer’s Markets… But you guys, we’re missing All The Things because we’re heading out of town! I’m sending out this post of amazing-ness in hopes others can enjoy them and that I may live vicariously through you all 🙂 Seriously though, what a great weekend to live in the Twin Cities!

Gibbs ‘Farm Fridays’ (for the family)

Gibbs Demonstrations – Ice Cream Making

This a unique farm experience for so many reasons; it’s nestled on the edge of the city and it showcases both pioneer and Dakota ways of life and gardening side by side. Farm Fridays feature weekly themes. They pack so much into their space, with the bonus of super friendly, knowledgeable staff in full pioneer garb. My kids are never sure how to talk with these costumed people, which adds to our quirky memories. This Friday we’re missing “Dakota Moons”, which (I think) is about planting with the moon; someone tell me what I missed! Gibbs Farm is open weekends too, with ‘Ice Cream Sundays’ featuring their homemade ice cream, on, you guessed it- Sundays.

Full disclosure* This place has been a favorite of mine since I had my birthday party here; we made corn husk dolls (like 30 years ago)!

Details: Admission: $8 adults, $7 seniors 62+, $5 children ages 4-16. Free for RCHS members.
2097 W. Larpenteur Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55113 There is local road construction so plan accordingly.

June 17
Breakfast on the Farm – (for the family)

I have not been to Goldview Farm, but I so wish I was going to this event! Start with a pancake breakfast fit for a farm hand; pancakes, sausage, coffee, milk with all proceeds above cost going to their local Food Shelf! (you know we love that) Then, check out the rest of the farm buildings and animals along with special events like: Wagon rides, FFA (Future Farmers of America) petting zoo, kiddie train rides, live music and free food samples. How could you not leave happier?
Details:  7am – 1pm, $5 (kids 5 and under are free) for the breakfast, the rest of the activities are free!
Goldview Farm- Waverly, MN 55390 – South of Howard Lake on County Rd 6 (directions)
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