Old-school tactics, new technology highlighted at sustainable farming celebration

Pictured here is a panoramic view of Lida Farm.

By Nicole WK

Ryan Pesch giving an animated tour of Lida Farm at the Deep Roots Festival hosted there on Sept. 10.

The Lake Agassiz Chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota hosted its Deep Roots Festival Sept 10 at Lida Farm, northeast of Pelican Rapids. 

Objective: Increase the connection to local food and the producers who grow it in the Lake Agassiz Region.

Lida Farm a family affair

Lida Farm is an organic farm run by Ryan Pesch, his wife Maree, and their three kids. They grow a wide variety of produce, available through their CSA program and three farm stands – including one at the Pelican Market. 

Pesch kicked off the festival with a tour of his 20-acre farm, describing the changes and what he’s learned during his time as an organic farmer, enabling him to use 3.5 acres to produce as much food as he was on 6.5 acres in prior years.

Farming contrasts—A trusty old FarmAll tractor, framed by new energy technology solar panels, at the Pesch family’s Lida Farms operation.

Some of the types of produce grown at Lida Farm include: 

• 14 varieties of winter squash
• Four varieties of carrots
• turnips
• bok choy
• broccoli
• cauliflower
• lettuce
• herbs 
• radishes
• peppers
• onions
• Cherry tomatoes, all grown in their high-tunnel
• 2,500 tomatoes grown in the field

Pesch uses a combination of new and old technology to farm his veggies, including this old Farmall cultivating tractor and various solar panels to offset energy costs, including a set tied to a wood boiler that heats their winter greenhouse with radiant floor head.

More about Lida Farm can be found at https://lidafarm.com

North Circle Seeds a unique Vergas venture 

Zach Paige of North Circle Seeds on a tour of his farm in Vergas where he grows a variety of the organic seeds he sells.

After the tour of Lida Farm, 78 people packed onto a school bus, along with tour guide Emily Reno, and headed out to North Circle Seeds in Vergas, where Zachary Paige showed folks his growing and seed-saving processes on the 46-acre farm. 

Paige works with other Minnesota farmers and grows his own organic produce to harvest seeds for his business. As a result, all the open-pollinated seeds they sell can be saved and will grow true to type in Minnesota’s shorter-than-average growing season. 

His high-tunnel currently grows basil, tomatoes, and lush vines of hops. Paige is working on selectively breeding for bright orange cherry tomatoes in the tunnel – a process that will take about eight years to de-pollinate.

A highlight of the tour included a new solar project through Lake Region Electric’s ‘Go West’ program to power an irrigation system on the farm.

See more about North Circle Seeds at https://northcircleseeds.com

New Oaks a chemical-free dairy operation north of Pelican 

78 people packed into the school bus that took festival-goers around area sustainable farms.

Phillip and Paul Rotz grew up on the 400-acre farm where they now grow organic corn and hay and milk their 65 dairy cows. 

While they haven’t gone through the whole process to be “certified” organic, they haven’t sprayed chemical fertilizers on their property since their dad stopped in the ’90s and even stopped using commercial fertilizer at the Scambler Township family farm altogether in 2009. 

Despite a few weeds here and there, they still manage to get about 130 bushels per acre of corn, and harvesting alfalfa for hay every month doesn’t allow the thistle to go to seed. Since using this sustainable approach, the hay quality has increased drastically, and their cows now produce milk with impressive levels of protein and butter fat. 

Like previous farms, New Oaks doesn’t shy away from using new technology along with their old-school practices. For example, tour-goers enjoyed learning about the “robot” that handles milking the cows in a fully automated process where cows walk into the robotic dairy system on their own to have a chip in their ear scanned. If the robot approves, the cow gets a little treat and is milked – if not, she gets a blast of water on her feet and is sent on her way! 

Anderson Apple Orchard touts Norwegian heritage

“Norwegian to the Core” is the motto of Anderson Apples north of Pelican Rapids, where Edward Anderson grows a beautiful orchard – with help from his brother Keith – on the farm that’s been in their family since 1905. 

After being inspired by Pelican’s well-known ag and vocational teacher Bud Andrews, where he learned about tree and plant identification—he had a dream to turn part of the family farm into an apple orchard. 

It took Anderson a while to make his way back to the farm from his home in Madison, Wisconsin, where he served as a Lutheran pastor for many years. 

“I learned by killing a lot of trees,” Anderson said.

Despite that, the orchard currently boasts 125 viable trees and a wide variety of apples that he sells at the Pelican Market, Manna Co-op in Detroit Lakes, and to a hard cider company in North Dakota – Cottonwood Cider.