Forgive me if I seem enthusiastic every year about this time. Somehow the opening of local farmers’ markets, the colorful blooms of spring flowers, and the annual free Minnesota Grown Directory make me realize how lucky we are to live in this amazing country.
I look at the directory as a travel guide to Minnesota. Here I can find farms to pick my own blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and other fruit and vegetables to get the freshest produce possible all summer long while saving money at the same time. There are also listings of local vineyards with tasting opportunities, local producers of homemade preserves, farm raised meat and poultry – in fact, 678 opportunities to enjoy food products created right here in Minnesota. And, that’s one of the best parts of supporting local growers – their products do not have to be shipped long distances.
Here are just a few nearby opportunities to consider:
There are more than seventy producers in the state offering tours of their farm, garden, ranch or winery. From Andover to Winthrop, growers welcome visitors to see and taste their products first hand.
WineHaven Winery and Vineyard is one example. Located in Chisago City it is open to visitors Thursday through Sunday 12 – 5 pm. Founded in 1995 as Chisago County’s first estate winery, WineHaven has won more than 100 awards for winemaking excellence. For information call 651-257-1017 or go to www.winehaven.com.
Dancing Bears Company in St. Joseph is another farm to experience. Bordering St. John’s University the farm welcomes visitors and overnight guests. Stroll the gardens and trails of the nearby St. John’s Arboretum or just enjoy Dancing Bears fresh produce, farm raised chickens, lamb, wool, and homemade baked goods. For directions, hours and information call 320-363-7723 or visit www.dancingberscompany.com.
There seems to be no end to the availability of locally grown products including foie gras in Chisago City, guinea hens in Princeton, kohlrabi in Hastings, soy beans in Arlington, sausage in Fergus Falls, shiitake mushrooms and blue potatoes in St. Joseph, and so much more. Here are just a few:
Gilroy, California, bills itself as the garlic capitol of the world but Afton, Minnesota, offers its own local version. The Afton Garlic Farm raises earth friendly, naturally fertilized garlic in several varieties and this year features Creole garlic. Open mid July through early December. For information call 651-436-4480.
Tallakson’s Tree and Trout Farm in Big Lake is open seasonally for its two specialties – Christmas trees and decorations, and fly-fishing. Learn the basics of fly-fishing for rainbow, brook and brown trout in the farm’s natural spring ponds or purchase freshly caught fish. Lots of wooded nature trails to walk or ski as well. For information call 952-474-7196 or 763-360-5537.
If you are a fan of emu, the Hassu Lintu Emu Ranch in Forest Lake is one of three local growers to visit. This small family farm features free-range raised emu. According to the farmers, “the meat tastes like beef, is high in iron and protein, low in fat and cholesterol and has been endorsed by the American Heart Association as a heart Healthy food.” For information call 651-464-7866 or visit www.emuproducts-minnesota.com.
Aunt Cookies Red Rhubarb in Warren offers all sorts of homegrown, homemade rhubarb based preserves. They will ship directly to you. Call 218-745-5589 or visit www.redrhubarb.com.
There are hundreds of farms throughout the state offering pick-your-own produce throughout the growing season. Here are just a few:
Anoka County Farms in Ham Lake offer pumpkin picking activities in September and October including hayrides, pony rides, and pumpkin bowling. For dates and hours call 763-427-0000 or visit www.anokacountyfarms.com.
Silkey Gardens, LLC, in Northfield offer pick-your-own strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, apples and more. Open from June to September they also pick to order. Call them at 651-357-5092 or visit www.silkeygardens.com.
Ocheda Orchard in Worthington is one of dozens of apple orchards offering pick-your-own apple opportunities or pre-picked at its roadside stand. They also offer sweet corn, pumpkins, honey, jams, and jellies. Open August through November. Call for information 507-376-3255 or visit www.ochedaorchard.com.
From Almelund to Vasa opportunities to stay overnight at a farm include a variety of activities. Here are a few:
Stay all night at WEI’s Amador Hill Farm and Orchard in Almelund, a certified organic orchard and CSA vegetable/fruit farm. Next to the Wild River St. Park its produce is sold to members and at farmers’ markets and local co-ops. Call 651-583-0705 or visit www.w-e-i.org.
Moonstone Farm in Montevideo raises grass-fed beef and sells butter and cheese as well. Operated by the Handeen family since 1872, the farm features its Broodio, a “bed and bagel” for overnight retreats. They also offer summer internships, birding opportunities, and free farm tours. Call 320-269-8971 or visit www.moonstonefarm.net.
Carmel Apple Orchard Inn in Staples opens September 25 for its Bed & Breakfast retreat. The stay includes a complete gourmet breakfast in the inn’s dining room or on the deck overlooking a pond, gardens & orchard. Stroll nature trails and watch the sunset by campfire. Apples, jellies, pies, carmel apples and fall produce are all available at the orchard. Call 218-894-2796 for information.
There are 71 farmers’ markets opening all across the state (16 in the Twin Cities area alone) with most open by July 1st. Visit your closest farmers’ market for the freshest local produce and meet the people who grow it. Each market has its own festive atmosphere and is great for alfresco snacking and people watching.
The Minnesota Grown Directory is published annually by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and is available at no charge by calling 651-201-6539 or go to www.minnesotagrown.com.
Phyllis Louise Harris is a cookbook author, food writer and cooking teacher specializing in Asian foods. She is founder of the Asian Culinary Arts Institutes Ltd. dedicated to the preservation, understanding and enjoyment of the culinary arts of the Asia Pacific Rim. For information about ACAI’s programs call 612-813-1757 or visit the website at www.asianculinaryarts.com.