Dean Engelmann and Scott Endres want to show people the benefits of consuming locally grown food.
They aim to do so in part through an annual event at Engelmann’s family farm, which provides plants, produce and meat for their restaurant and their garden center in Tangletown.
Engelmann and Endres, who own Tangle- town Gardens and Wise Acre Eatery, will hold their annual Friends & Family Day on June 16. The event will include a tour of the 140-acre farm, opportunities to meet the farm animals, hayrides, a picnic lunch and more.
“For us it’s important for our guests to see the connection of the dots of how every- thing works together,” Endres said. “Having guests be able to see that backstory I think is really important.”
Endres and Engelmann both grew up on farms before meeting as horticulture students at the University of Minnesota. The two never had a class together, but became friends because they were both active in the U’s Department of Horticul- ture Science, Endres said.
Engelmann went into plant production and wholesale nursery sales after college, while Endres began working in retail plant sales. The two reconnected professionally when they both worked for a garden center in St. Paul, subsequently deciding to open their own garden center.
Endres said they fell in love with the building at the northeast corner of 54th & Nicollet, which they purchased in the winter of 2002. They opened Tangletown Gardens at the site in spring 2003, growing plants on an acre of Engelmann’s family farm while also relying on local growers.
Over time, the duo began growing more and more of their plants at the farm, eventually growing produce for their own community-supported agriculture program. They opened Wise Acre Eatery across the street from the garden center in 2011, serving beef, poultry and produce grown on the farm.
Nowadays, Engelmann and Endres grow about 75 to 90 percent of the food used at the restaurant on any given day, Endres said. They utilize the full 140 acres of Engelmann’s
family farm for their work and also use space at some neighboring farms and Endres’ family farm in Hampton, Minnesota.
The two businesses employ dozens of people in Minneapolis and in Plato, Minnesota, and have morphed into popular neighborhood spots.
“We try to have the bar raised pretty high as far as what we expect from ourselves,” said Endres, noting employees with back- grounds in the culinary world, marketing, art and more. “We love the fact that we have these skillsets (and) that everybody can contribute their very best every day.”
Touring the farm
Guests at the June 16 event will get a behind-the-scenes look at how Engelmann and Endres bring their meat and produce from the farm to the restaurant. The tour will highlight their ecologically focused initiatives, such as their aquaponics system and how they make compost and rotate their fields.
“You don’t see that side when you come to the restaurant,” Endres said. “Guests know that we have a farm, but they don’t see the magnitude of it.”
The farm includes an acre of greenhouses in which Engelmann and Endres grow produce and nutrient-rich sprouted grains for their animals. The farm also has a significant amount of pasture space for their livestock, allowing them to graze and root as they see fit.
“We feel like animals that we’ll ultimately be harvesting for our food … need to have great lives while they’re out there,” Endres said.
Endres said the soil at the farm is teeming with microbial activity, noting that they grow their plants and produce without chemical pesticides. He added that the soils at the farm are carbon positive, meaning they capture more carbon than they let off.
Engelmann noted how their local model cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions by shortening the distance their food has to travel. He said there’s more nutritional value in food and that food tastes better when it’s fresher.
Engelmann said his passion for farming sustainably grew out of his desire to produce healthier food in a more sustainable economic manner. He said times were tough on dairy farmers when he was growing up on his family’s farm in the ‘80s, because the cost of production rose but society wasn’t willing to pay for it.
Engelmann said agriculture doesn’t need to be entirely consistent of large conglom- erates producing food. In fact, he said consumers are starting to think about food differently and are noting how critical of a role it plays in the health of society.
“I think people are starting to say, ‘what’s going on,’” Engelmann said, noting Michael Pollan’s 2006 book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” which analyzed the modern food system.
“If you look at commodity ag markets, farmers get paid for producing volume,” Engelmann said. “There is no incentive to produce nutritious food, and there really is no financial incentive to produce healthier soil.”
Engelmann said shopping would be less expensive if people were to go out with the idea of getting the most nutrients for their dollar. He said it’s energizing to see the impact their approach has had on parents, who are passing on such shopping practices to their own kids.
Engelmann and Endres host several events at the farm each year, including the family event on the 16th. They will host an annual multi-course, farm-inspired dinner at the farm on Aug. 18.
The event on June 16 will run from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. at the farm, at 11407 County Road 9, Plato, Minnesota. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Tickets include a picnic-style lunch from Wise Acre Eatery, one beverage ticket and access to the event activities and tours.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit tangletowngardens.com/tangetown-gardens/events.