Minn. couple turn planting into a growing success

Jolene and Jason Moen
In this undated photo, Jolene and Jason Moen pose for a photo on their Glenwood, Minnesota farm. The Moens are committed to provide fresh local foods grown to various customers and local food shelves.
AP Photo/Agri News, Carol Stender

Jason and Jolene Moen of Glenwood have a way with plants.

Every time they plant a garden, they harvest more than they can consume.

They've taken some of the excess to the local foodshelf, but there's always something left over.

"I am like my father," Jolene said. "I have always gardened and have always had extra produce."

They saw a solution to their garden bounty when a friend, a member of a local Community Supported Agriculture, suggested starting their own CSA.

The Moens started Plentiful Visions three years ago. They offer full- and half-shares over 16 weeks in the summer and early fall. Full-share members receive a box of fresh vegetables once a week delivered to their home. Half-share members get produce every other week, Jason said.

They started with one member and now have 15 shareholders. They don't envision growing much larger than a 30-shareholder CSA, Jolene said.

"I like it smaller," she said. "You get to know your customers."

The couple will also sell produce at the Pope County Farmers Market in Glenwood.

They hadn't planned on making gardening a business when they purchased the farm seven years ago. They merely wanted a place in the country near Alexandria where they work. A country home is a great place to raise their family, Jason said. And it offered space for a garden, which they'd always had.

The 8.5 acre farm, located between Alexandria and Glenwood, had a garden and buildings but the yard needed trimming and the soil required rejuvenation. They increased the ground's organic matter and Jason took to mowing the expansive yard. Jolene had a solution to Jason's long mowing time: She wanted to turn more lawn into garden space. Not all of the areas they've dug has been planted in vegetables. They landscaped several spots with flowers and lawn decorations.

The garden plants are started in the house under grow lights. They are using Seed Savers seed and have many plants for transplanting. Potatoes were planted on Good Friday. It's a standard "Farmers Almanac" practice that's been a successful one for them.

They grow cabbages, radish, green onions, spinach, romaine lettuce, beets, Swiss chard, large storage onions, rutabagas and more.

They are not organic, but they don't use pesticides or chemicals.

"Our weed control is the five fingers on this hand and the five on the other," she said. "We use no chemical fertilizer and eventually we hope to become organic."

The CSA boxes are filled first followed by produce for the farmers market. The food shelf supply comes next.

"It's all about feeding people," Jolene said. "They are very appreciative at the food shelf. I was unaware of how many people use the foodshelf. Instead of getting canned, packaged or frozen foods, they get some fresh garden vegetables to enjoy."

She says their operation is a work in progress. They are trying to figure out how much to grow per CSA share.

The couple also cares for a few donkeys and 55 laying hens. The eggs are consumed by the family, sold to co-workers and included in CSA shares, she said.

Their love of gardening is rubbing off. Although four-year-old Janel is more interested in playing games in their yard, Carter, 6, has started his own plot. This is Carter's first attempt at gardening, his parents said. But he's already planning on adding onions, corn and pumpkins all foods he likes to eat. He's also farming worms.

And he's learning good eating habits.

"The main reason we do this is because of the importance of eating healthy and eating local," Jolene said. "That's what this is all about."

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Information from: Agri News

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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