One of the first things to be do when planning a farm season is to decide what crop varieties will be grown. Usually, farmers and gardeners have a couple of slower months to pilfer through seed catalogues and exchange locally-grown varieties with each other. For me, mid-March, I have everything but time. Seeds have to get started soon. Oh, wait. Neither do I have greenhouse space to grow seedlings. Time and space are two crucial conditions that crops like tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, etc. need in order to have a fair chance of producing a bounty of fruits and seeds in a cold climate.
After a bit of research and checking in with various farmers and businesses, I find out that greenhouse space in March in Minnesota is as precious as water in desert. People do not have any extra to borrow. Ultimately, I came across Gardens of Eagan in Northfield, MN, which has a couple of organic certified tunnels to grow starts for farmers. This is one of the best options this season because they can handle the quantity I need to grow out, they have the professional experience to ensure I receive sizeable plants for the season, and their customer relations services are impeccable. So I pass them along my seed lists as well as my seeds from High Mowing, Baker Creek Seed Company, Seed Savers Exchange, and Johnny’s Selected Seeds with a sigh of relief. Even though there will be crops that I directly seed (plant) at each site, there are quite a few that require an early start.
At the beginning of April, I drove down to Northfield (30 minutes south of the Twin Cities) to meet the movers and shakers at Garden of Eagan (GOE). Jackie Green, the Sales Lead, and Susan Quigley, the Pack Shed and Plant Manager, gave me a tour of their seedling operations. They even let me get a sneak peak of the seed starts for the Tiny Diner and Honey House Farm. Even though GOE just moved to their new site this winter, things are hustling and bustling. They have plants started for their farm, other growers, and for their new farmers in their farm incubator program. Here are a few pictures of the tour. Until I return here in May with interns, I will bask in the friendliness, light, heat, and greenery I experienced in their high tunnels. THANK YOU GOE!