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ISSUE 121 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/21/2007

STOGROW expands

By Erica Bisbey
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 21, 2007

St. Olaf's farm is busy with harvest season this time of year. STOGROW, The St. Olaf Garden Research and Organic Works, is the local organic farm on campus. The farm is completely student-run.

On some afternoons, STOGROW invites students to volunteer time and hands for harvesting. Kristin Johnson '10, a student worker at the farm this summer, delegates tasks to volunteers. "This year we had five workers. Rob Smith '10, Olivia Baily '11 and me [are learning] and we'll take over next year," Johnson said.

The farm is relatively small. "It's less than one acre," said Rob Smith, one of the three interns. "We're doing pretty well, though. We're expecting $20,000 in produce and sales by the end of the year. We sell 100 percent of our produce to the Caf," Johnson said.

STOGROW is a small outfit. "Considering the Caf's overall budget, $20,000 is a drop in the bucket," explained Andrew Moe, a STOGROW employee and St. Olaf senior. In the summer months, however, when the farm is producing plenty and the campus population is fractionalized, the produce accounts for a larger portion of Caf food."

Even when the cafeteria doesn't buy STOGROW, they still buy close to home. "The good thing about the caf is they buy things from local producers," Smith said.

The farm's main vegetables are tomatoes, peppers, and a variety of squash. "We also grow a lot of little things salad mixes acucumbers, eggplant, and radishes," Smith said.

A local producer, STOGROW supplies an environmentally sustainable food source. "Buying local you're not putting 'miles' on your food, having to spend gas to move it," Smith said. "Local is also fresher; it doesn't take weeks to get there".

Dayna Burtness '07 founded the farm her sophomore year. Dan Borek, who graduated three years ago, was cofounder. "She proposed to get a students' entrepreneur grant for students who want to start a business," Smith said.

"It was something that really interested her. She just started reading a lot of books on farming, and she passed it on to us. It was kind of a self-taught skill for her. She's talked to a lot of local farmers and has been an intern for some of them. They've helped her and given her advice". "Originally they weren't planning to sell everything to the caf," Smith said. "They thought they would sell to the co-op or other clients. But when they went to the caf to see if they would buy anything, they offered to buy 100 percent of what Stogrow produces."

STOGROW includes a variety of tasks aside from typical farming. Workers pick raspberries, harvest basil, and let the sheep out to pasture. "We do a lot of stuff outside of the farm," Smith said. "We plan a lot of festivals where people from Northfield can come take a look at the farm."

The farm also owns eight chickens. Being young, they haven't started laying yet. "Right now they benefit the farm in other ways," Smith said. "They keep the weeds down. We rotate them around the edge of the farm. We have to move their portable chicken coops every day. And they're good fertilizers. Their manure is really high in nitrogen. It's pretty amazing for the ground".

A typical work day for the farmers varies. "It depends on the season," said Smith. "Earlier in the year, we'd put in an eight hour work day planting things and getting everything going.

During the summer, though, between the five of us we'd put in around four hours a day. Obviously, it picks up during harvesting The great thing is there's always tons that can be done in a day, but at the same time nature's pretty good at taking care of itself."

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