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On 20 acres, big ideas are growing

The Duluth Community Farm is located on the corner Jean Duluth and Riley Roads near the Lake Park soccer and baseball fields.

Duluth isn't known for its farming, but it doesn't take a lot of land to get something growing.

"You can grow a lot of food on 20 acres," says Jamie Harvie, co-chairman of the Duluth Community Farm and executive director of the Institute for a Sustainable Future.

Harvie, who shares Community Farm duties with Randy Hanson, is putting out a call for applicants for the Community Farm Program's 20-acre farm on the corner of Jean Duluth and Riley Roads.

"We see Duluth Community Farm as helping lift the boats of the many other organizations involved in the local food system, including the Duluth Community Garden Program, Lake Superior Farming Association and others," Harvie said. The donated community farmland site is part of Lakewood Berry Farms, which is owned by Johannes Aas, a retired physician. The site has sat fallow for the past few years, so some work will be needed to amend the soil.

The site has been farmed before, as the Greysolon Farm Company, which was started in 1910 by Duluth Commercial Club members and other Duluth leaders as a way to provide fresh food for the city's then-burgeoning population.

Other organizations involved include Community Action Duluth's Seeds of Success, the Whole Foods Coop, the Sustainable Agriculture Project at UMD, the Institute for a Sustainable Future, and the Duluth Farmers Market. A steering committee is composed of representatives from all the organizations.

The farm will be divided among several tenants so each person will have only an acre or two.

"We are not having a huge commodity farm, like soy bean farms," Harvie said. While farmers do get to choose what they will grow, some of the most common crops that can adapt to Duluth weather include cabbage, broccoli, beans, peppers, eggplants, basil, other herbs and tomatoes.

Why farm? One reason is to know exactly where your food comes from in a time of national, and even international, recalls of tainted foods. Harvie cited the spinach scare last year. Anyone who had a local supplier of spinach didn't have to worry.

Applicants need to have had one season of experience and may be of any age. Nationally, the average age of farmers is 57, Travis Marcotte told potential farmers at a recent meeting presentation at the EPA building on Congdon Boulevard on the eastern edge of Duluth.

Marcotte's slide-show depicted a successful farm

incubator program in Burlington, Vt., which he presented as a model that could be adapted locally Farm incubators can help new farmers develop their skills, "and," Harvie said, "they can learn without having to purchase land and all the capital necessary. ... Another goal is to educate the community about the importance of agriculture and how it works."

Earlier, industrialized farms were seen as necessary and as an easier way to feed a growing population, the presenters said. But as our world becomes more industrialized, so have our food sources. Now, many people are beginning to see value in food that is produced locally.

"The industrial model of farming has disengaged people (from the farmer and food). Food is at the nexus of health," Harvie said, adding that the ranks of ranks also need to be replenished "With the average age of farmers at 57, we need more new farmers," he said.

Tom Spehar, a 2006 Duluth East High School graduate was one of the more than 100 people to attend the presentation. "All my grandparents grew up on a farm and it seems like that (the art of farming) has been lost," he said. Spehar, who is interested in vegetable and animal farming, recently reconnected with a distant relative, who has a vegetable and dairy farm.

The deadline for the Community Farm Program is March 21. An application may be found on their website

Food, glorious food lectures

People who eat food -- which means everyone -- are invited to attend food seminars sponsored by the Sustainable Agriculture Project, UMD, Institute for Advanced Study, UMD and Institute for Sustainable Future. All events are located in the UMD library Rotunda, fourth floor. The speaker series are funded by Institute for Advanced Study, UMD. For more information contact or call (218) 349-2956

March 31: "Institutionalizing Good Food: the Case of the University of Minnesota Morris," Sandra Olson Loy, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, University Minnesota, Morris

April 7: "Creating Student Centered College and University Gardens: The Case of the Cornercopia Farm," Courtney Tchida, Student Program Coordinator, MISA, University of Minnesota, St. Paul

April 22: "Growing Power and Growing Food," Will Allen, Growing Power, Milwaukee, Wis., Different location and time 7:00 pm: Public Address, UMD Kirby Ballroom

April 28: "Food Systems in Healthcare," Diane Imre, MBA, RD Director of Nutrition Services, Fletcher Allen Healthcare, Vt.

May 5: "Building Food Change in Eau Claire, Wis." Representatives from Sacred Heart Hospital, Eau Claire, Wis.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at