The life of a solo farmer

Kristin Thompson from Tuttie Fruittie’s Farm.
Kristin Thompson from Tuttie Fruittie’s Farm. Photo by Sarah Woutat

You can hear Kristin Thompson’s infectious laugh from across the market. The woman behind Tuttie Fruittie’s Edible Organic Gardens is a new vegetable producer selling at the Fulton and Nokomis farmers markets this year. Born in Montana, she lived in rural Texas before moving to Minnesota when she was 12, and she has always had a love of being outside with her hands in the dirt.

Thompson’s experience comes from an internship at the Women’s Environmental Institute in North Branch and time spent running a business creating edible gardens for people in the Twin Cities. She has a long history of community gardening and a general love of the land and growing food. She is now leasing land from Big River Farms, an arm of The Food Group, a Minnesota nonprofit that provides access to land, infrastructure and education to historically underserved farmers. This has allowed Thompson to start her farm business with minimal capital investment and gives her an opportunity to build her business and knowledge with less risk.

When she’s not farming, you can see Thompson’s smiling face four days a week as she works behind the deli counter or coffee bar at the Richfield Lakewinds Co-op. After her morning shift, she heads home for lunch and a quick nap, and then drives to the farm in Marine on St. Croix to tend her land and harvest for markets until dark.

Next season, when she jumps from a quarter acre to 2 acres, she said she’s not sure how she’ll manage off-farm work with her agricultural responsibilities as a solo farmer. Scaling up farming can have a steep learning curve.

Kristin Thompson from Tuttie Fruittie’s Farm.
Kristin Thompson from Tuttie Fruittie’s Farm.

“When I covered my broccoli and kale with row cover to protect them from flea beetles, but didn’t cover the cauliflower, I interplanted dill with the cauliflower because dill can be a pest deterrent,” Thompson said. “The flea beetles were all over the cauliflower and can do a lot of damage to it. But once the dill started coming up, the flea beetles disappeared!”

She was gratified to see that these same companion planting practices can be effective on a larger scale, explaining that “companion planting is a symbiotic relationship between plant families.”

“One plant helps the other grow or attracts beneficial insects or deters harmful insects or provides shade for yet another,” she said. “It gives one plant a trellis to climb and allows for more plants to be planted in the space provided. Plants need different vitamins and minerals from the soil so it’s good for soil health to not plant all the same thing. … I have multiple beds on the farm that have several different crops in one bed to produce maximum yields in the space I have.”

Kristin Thompson from Tuttie Fruittie’s Farm.
Kristin Thompson from Tuttie Fruittie’s Farm.

Thompson said that starting a farm business has pushed her out of her comfort zone. “I say I’m out doing this on my own, and for the most part that’s true,” she said. “However, there are so many people on my sidelines cheering me on and it motivates me to keep going.”

Stop by Fulton and Nokomis Farmers Markets to chat with Thompson and learn more about her and her farm!

Fulton Farmers Market

When: 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturdays

Where: 4901 Chowen Ave. S.

Nokomis Farmers Market

When: 4 p.m.–8 p.m. Wednesdays

Where: 5167 Chicago Ave. S.

Kingfield Farmers Market

When: 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m. Sundays

Where: 4310 Nicollet Ave. S.