Some of my most vivid childhood memories involve my grandmother’s old farm in St. Croix Falls, Wis. — picking raspberries, chasing cats, making plays with my cousin and brother, and of course, eating some of the best meals of my life on Sunday afternoons.
It was also the scene for one of my family’s favorite stories to retell at get-togethers — the time my brother accidentally threw a rotten tomato from the garden at my dad’s face. My dad tried to chase and catch him, but my brother ran away too fast from the garden and locked himself in the family car.
The farm is no longer in the family. My 96-year-old grandmother lives in a nursing home in Amery, Wis. For years, I’ve driven by the farm on the way to my family’s cabin and reminisced about all the wonderful moments there.
During a recent trip to the Kingfield Farmers Market, my mother and I randomly met Benjamin Hopper, an organic farmer who rents my grandma’s old place with his wife Andrea. We were so happy and surprised to meet him and learn about his business, Tiny Planet Produce.
Now when I drive past the farm on the way to my folks’ cabin on Deer Lake, I’m thrilled to know that the Hoppers are growing vegetables just like my grandma loved to do for so many years.
The Hoppers plan on expanding their gardening operation next year. They are leasing the farm through the fall of 2011. This past season they have grown their vegetables at a one-acre plot at Fox Tail Farm in Osceola, Wis. They sell produce at the Kingfield Farmers Market, the Northeast Minneapolis Farmers Market and to a few restaurants.
Next year they plan to grow their vegetables on an eight-acre plot at their farm. They will have a 100-member CSA and will sell produce at a stand at the farm, too.
When asked about what life is like as an organic vegetable grower, Hopper said it’s great work, but a tough schedule. During the growing season, they get up between 5 and 6 a.m., seven days a week.
“It’s really rewarding, but there’s a lot you can’t control — like the weather,” he said. “The weather was not the greatest this year. It’s definitely hard. It’s not for everyone.”
When asked what’s the best part of the job, Hopper had a simple answer.
“Eating. It’s the only thing that counts,” he said. “Every time we have friends come into town they are always amazed with the bounty of food that we have.”
Kingfield Farmers Market
The market’s last day of the season is Oct. 25. A pumpkin-carving contest is planned for the last day. The market is open 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays at 43rd & Nicollet. For more information, visit kingfieldmarket.org.
Sarah McKenzie edits the Southwest and Downtown Journals. She’s a major fan of the city’s many wonderful farmers markets and is looking forward to shopping at the Hoppers’ food stand next summer.