Just hours before the Backyard Farm Fair on May 21, as the exhausted staff finished the final preparations, we received the good news that Frogtown Farm is now officially certified organic! The staff was giddy with excitement after months of work on the application followed by the relatively painless process of application review, site inspection and heroically timed final approval from our certifying agency MCIA. People are often surprised that we were able to achieve USDA organic certification in our first year of growing, and that the first crops we sell will be certified. Suffice it to say, we had the great good fortune that the city of St Paul and the prior owner of the land didn’t use any chemicals or seeds that are not allowed, and we were able to safe guard the potential for certification during the construction process thanks to the willingness of the city to work with us to protect the status. Being certified organic will allow us to command to better price at market and offer a healthier product to our neighbors in Frogtown!
In case that wasn’t enough, this last month has brought noticeable changes to the landscape of the Farm. The beautiful permaculture/water management project has been nearly fully realized and is managing water while inspiring to all who visit. Carefully selected to benefit each other and the soil, fruit trees, shrubs and perennials such as rhubarb, strawberries, Egyptian walking onions and herbs dot the rolling mounds, and mini clover is filling in to cover the soil between the plantings while fixing nitrogen to share it back to the plants. The alley crops of aronia, asparagus, raspberries and June berries are all planted and mulched. Bio-swales are planted in native grasses and wild flowers and the recent rain has benefited all plantings to dramatic effect! The making of a permaculture inspired landscape benefits the farm with the promise of high nutrient perennial crops and the potential to host permaculture trainings on site.
Building berms and planting in the annual vegetable production area has also begun. Rows of tiny plants rise tender green against the dark soil. Rabbit fence surrounds the delectable edibles, and gates have been mounted at all openings. The mammoth sheet mulching project in field has made steady progress thanks to many hands! Painting and interior renovation of the shipping container storage sheds is nearly complete and large water containers called IBC totes have been positioned in each field. A graceful curving walkway now cuts through the Commons. Each day brings new developments, new relationships with community members and organizations, new life in the farm fields. The rhythm of working the soil, planting, watering, thinning, weeding, harvesting, and delivering super fresh locally grown organic produce has begun in earnest.
Today the Page family had a Memorial Day picnic at Frogtown Farm. The weather was perfect and the fare was simple. Tim had an idea that people could plant something in memory of their loved ones, and that is a really great idea to build on for future Memorial Days, with perhaps the greater community family in attendance! Remembering those who have served, I think of the service of those who come and volunteer their time at Frogtown Farm. In fact, one of our regular volunteers, AJ stopped by the Farm today to take pictures to send to her mom, and Tim invited her to stay for lunch. She pitched in and helped as she always does. Being grateful for service reminded me of my gratitude toward Tim’s family members, various friends, interns, volunteers, and our stellar staff who pitched in and prepped the farm for the Backyard Farm Fair and for the growing season. On Friday, 2 teams from the Minnesota Conservation Corps came to complete service projects. The Case and Payne team built 2 compost bins which are now located behind the hoop house, and the West Minnesota team arrived with a tiny house on a post that will house books for passersby to enjoy. This is located at the southwest corner of the property under the broad canopy of a pair of sturdy maple trees. The young people involved were enthusiastic about these youth led projects and proud of the crowning achievement of their work for MCC this spring.
Each morning, as the ends and sides of the hoop house are opened to the outside air, we renew our resolve to create the best possible community focused farm in the world. Each evening, as the hoop house is closed against the cool of night, we are grateful for Frogtown Farm and all it offers.