Last week, I visited two farms in the New Ulm area with Sen. Al Franken’s staff, who wanted to learn more about sustainable producers as the senator begins work on the farm bill.
We started at the home of fifth-generation farmer Gary LeGare, who came in from the field and showed us his “mob-grazed” pasture and cattle with his daughter, Sarah, and her three children. Gary, a dairy farmer, is turning over his farm to the next generation and in the process of transitioning to using cover crops, planting diverse species, and adding livestock to their landscape. Sarah talked enthusiastically about the health benefits of grassfed beef and the difference between free-range and standard eggs. We learned about their trial-and-error research, their passion to keep the farm in the family and their desire to restore soil health.
From there, we went to Sleepy Eye to the home of Craig and Amanda Fischer, who raise bison, pastured chickens, turkeys and hogs. I’ve gotta tell you, watching little piglets run around and rut in the mud on a hot day is truly entertaining. The Fischers are fourth-generation farmers and displayed “Minnesota Grown” and “Ag Water Certification” signs, as they felt these tools help them directly market to our community.
These farms are quite different but share the common value of stewarding and restoring the land, protecting water, and celebrating diversity for future generations. They are a good example of what makes SFA unique and impactful. These producers attend meetings to learn and network, read and research. One joined the Cropland Grazing Exchange, which SFA helped launch, and may be coming to our Dirt Rich workshop.
I felt fortunate to be on these two farms, especially as SFA launches its Festival of Farms series later this month. Festival of Farms includes several farm tours hosted by SFA chapters to connect our food producers to eaters and anyone who wants to get to know their farmer. Some include a potluck; all promise to give a good picture of innovation and care of the land with soil health principles put into practice. Check out the farm tours in this issue of Connect and sign up. I hope to see you at one of them!