This is what license plates look like after traveling from Maine to Florida to California to Oregon to Minnesota, fyi!
After a much needed, but too short visit home to RI/Boston in July, I flew back to Portland, OR to begin the trek east to Minnesota. Lindsey, a friend from college, sacrificed a week of her life to join me… or maybe it was for the cowboys? One week from Portland, OR to Minneapolis, MN is a lot of driving but we managed to squeeze in a lot of fun along the way.
First stop was Missoula, Montana where every person we met was into extreme outdoor sports like kayaking and mountain biking. Downtown Missoula hosted a white water kayaking competition on Friday night as the main attraction for the evening. A couple hundred people sat along the Snake River bank watching kayakers flip and spin into the rapids in hopes of winning cool prizes, but mostly for the fun factor. The next day we spent six hours floating/screaming/swimming/paddling through the Alberton Gorge on a white water rafting trip where I saw my first Bald Eagle - so cool!
Second stop was Jackson Hole, Wyoming in which we spent the bulk of our time taking in the beautiful Teton Mountains and checking out the cowboys. I thought I
was going to be responsible for Lindsey’s death after a hike up Snow King in Jackson, which was a 1500 ft elevation gain in already 6,000 foot elevation on the ground, but she managed to stay alive and we made it to the top in a victorious, but seemingly breathless climb. One rodeo and two nights out country dancing later and we filled our cowboy meter, or at least I did - Lindsey, are you moving to Wyoming yet?! Leaving Jackson (and our awesome host, Bill!) was difficult as we would have loved to stay for more hiking, rafting and dancing.
The drive from Jackson into South Dakota was incredible via Teton and Yellowstone National Park where we saw buffalo walking along the side of the road, elk grazing, dozens of types of birds on and around the lakes, and of course, the mountains! Taking I-90 into South Dakota wasn’t so bad until we attempted to take a “scenic route” to the Badlands. Well… we’re lucky to be alive! As Lindsey and I are driving through desolate, barren stretches of one lane dirt roads with nothing but desert, dust and giant mutant grasshoppers in all directions we started speculating
what the newspaper reports would say when we never turn up in Minnesota; “Naive East Coast Girls Attempt Scenic Drive Through Badlands, Get Eaten by Jackalopes!” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackalope) or something to that effect. I’ve never been so happy to see tourists in white sneakers, high waist bands and fanny packs in my life - as that meant we must be near the Badlands Visitor Center and the return to I-90! Hours of driving through central and eastern South Dakota enlightened us with the Corn Palace and Wall Drug, the two biggest tourist attractions in the state, and finally mercifully released us into Minnesota where Lindsey flew back to Boston and I started my farm search in the Minneapolis area.
A week of farm meeting-and-greeting landed me at Garden Farme in Ramsey, Minnesota which is about 30 miles north of the Twin Cities. For a small stipend plus room and board, I work approximately 40 hours a week with 5-8 other people to fill orders for restaurants in the cities. Besides a booming honey business, Garden Farme grows and sells several varieties of lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, squash, tomatoes, basil and other herbs, peppers and mustard greens. The majority of my
time is spent harvesting for the orders, usually early in the morning or in the evening when the 90 degree days have cooled down and the greens are no longer wilting. Any other hours available are dedicated to garden maintenance which consists of weeding, planting, micro mulching (laying grass clippings in the aisles of baby greens) and digging raised beds. The heat, humidity and mosquitoes have been a problem for most of us, forcing us to work in the early and late hours while constantly battling the bugs, and even with upwards of eight people doing labor there seems to be an endless and growing list of tasks on the property.
This is the first financially sustainable, fully commercial farm that I have worked for on my farm-hopping journey, so I am learning a lot about the marketing and financial aspect of making a living farming. There are daily marketing calls, new restaurants to entice and deadlines for harvesting and deliveries to complete three to five times a week. The duties pertaining to the organization of who is going to do what deliveries every day, who is available for harvesting, if we have enough of each given crop for
an order, and making sure there are orders coming in for the next week is a full time job that is split between Bruce, Katherine, Kris and Amie and takes up a large chunk of time every day. I am finding the business aspect of farming fascinating, but also a bit daunting as it is a reality check to me of how much time, effort and labor go into making a place sustainable both financially and otherwise. It does not surprise me that until now, none of the farms I have experienced have been able to sustain themselves without outside income, as I am seeing here just how difficult that really is.
I am getting to know everyone who lives and works here and enjoying my time on the farm more each day, which makes the work seem less like work. Weekends I drive into the city and hang out with my friend Pete, going to outdoor concerts and farmers markets and getting to know the cities. More farm stuff to come, as I intend to be in Minnesota until the end of the season here in mid October. xoxo
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