The Minnesota Food Association (MFA) operates Big River Farms in Marine on St. Croix where it teaches sustainable farming methods to new farmers, many from diverse backgrounds, who grow certified organic produce. Operating a community-supported agriculture farm and participating in farmers markets, MFA provides a guaranteed market for the farmers they support.
MFA’s mission is to build a more sustainable food system based on social, economic and environmental justice through education, training and partnerships. “We cover topics like the organic certification process, managing crops, post-harvest produce management and business management,” says Lebo Moore, Food Hub Manager at Big River Farms.
The Minnesota Food Association joined Minnesota Green in 2017 and used donated plants to create a new garden behind the packing shed where farmers cleaned their harvest. There were drainage issues there, and “it was a muddy mess,” says Lebo. “We wanted to minimize erosion and provide pollinator habitat, and we were able to do that with plants donated through Minnesota Green.” The new garden improved the look of the area. “It’s been fun introducing the farmers to pollinator edges to help with pollination of the crops and promote diversity,” Lebo says.
The farm offers youth and family programs and hosts on-farm events, such as the Co-op Farm Tour in July and a harvest party in October. It is partnering with the City of Maplewood and the parks department to convert 3 acres at Harvest Park into a production farm. “The space would be used to beautify and introduce visitors to different kinds of farming practices, like permaculture,” says Lebo. Strong partnerships are what Lebo says has made MFA programs continue with such success, and MSHS looks forward to growing its relationship with MFA.