All in on local foods

Slideshow: A North Dakota couple are making a living on just 2½ acres.

By Luann Dart

Jonathon and Hannah Moser, of Forager Farm, Streeter, N.D., are making a go of farming on 2½ acres.

“Our goal is all about food and delivering fresh food to people. My life’s goal is to change the food culture, to get people reconnected to it and inspire them in new ways,” Jonathon says.

Forager Farm has several outlets for melons and many different vegetables.

Each week for about 18 weeks of the growing season, they deliver boxes of vegetables to 50-60 Community Supported Agriculture customers at collection points in Jamestown, Bismarck, Mandan and Hazen. They offer three different sizes of boxes, each containing the same types of vegetables, but in different quantities.

“The thing we hear the most is just how fresh and tasty it is,” Hannah says.

They also deliver weekly to the BisMan Community Food Cooperative, a grocery store in Bismarck where locally grown fruits, vegetables, meat, milk and eggs fill the shelves. The Mosers supply everything from early-spring lettuce to late-season melons.

Another customer is the Jamestown School District, which participates in the national Farm to School program by purchasing melons and other fall vegetables from Forager Farm.

The chef at Terra Nomad, a Bismarck restaurant, purchases produce from Forager Farm.

The Mosers sell at a farmers market in Bismarck about twice a month, too.

“We’re providing garden-fresh vegetables … so if our customers don’t have the space or the time or the green thumb, we’re providing that for them through all the avenues we sell to,” Jonathon says.

In their fourth growing season, the Mosers now have a better idea of the type and amount of vegetables their customers will need. And they’ve fine-tuned their farming methods.

They experiment with varieties each year, with flavor and growth potential as the main factors for selecting a variety. For example, a new variety of purple Brussels sprouts will be incorporated into the CSA boxes this year.

“It’s something different and maybe someone’s children will want to try it just because it’s purple,” Jonathon says.

Maximizing acres
They grow vegetables in a raised-bed system and use successional sowing and intercropping to get the most use of their small acreage. As soon as a bed is harvested, it is replanted, so multiple harvests come out of the same space each season.

“Every year, we’ve gotten better at that,” Jonathon says. “It’s a new thing every year. You never know what the season’s going to bring. What worked well last year might not work so well this year.”

They also use intercropping to use their space efficiently. For example, radish, Asian greens and kohlrabi are planted around the Brussels sprouts. Then, the faster-growing plants are harvested by the time the Brussels sprouts need more space.

“It’s a way for us to utilize that space while we’re waiting for the Brussels sprouts to get bigger,” Jonathon says.

They use drip irrigation throughout the garden.

“The drip irrigation is a little more intensive for setup, but once it’s out, you put only the water you need right where you need it,” Jonathon says.

The Mosers seed all their plants in early March into soil blocks inside a 24-by-16-foot heated greenhouse. The seedlings are then transplanted into the garden in the soil blocks so the roots are not disturbed. Only spinach and carrots are directly seeded into the garden.

To use the greenhouse as efficiently as possible, they also grow quick-growing greens and sprouts to sell to their wholesale accounts in early spring.

Inside a 30-by-36-foot unheated hoop house, the Mosers plant early greens directly into the ground, and they are ready by May. They also utilize grow lights and mats in a germination chamber to hold plants at a specific temperature.

The Mosers’ garden brims with eggplant, colorful peppers, frilly celery, colored carrots, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, ready for picking and delivery to consumers. The Mosers may deliver to a customer with dirt under their fingernails, but it’s that connection their customer wants.

“We’re producing something that is transparent. You don’t know where food comes from in the grocery store. You don’t know anything about it other than the price. We’re giving people not only our story, but also that transparency,” Jonathon says.

Hannah produces a newsletter with seasonal recipes, and the couple communicates through Facebook and Instagram about their garden. Their customers can also visit with them directly during deliveries.

“It comes down to having that connection with people and telling our story,” Jonathon says.

To learn more about Forager Farm, visit foragerfarm.com.

Dart is from Elgin, N.D. She grew up on a grain and cattle farm in southwest North Dakota.

TAGS: Crops
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