Lida Farm continues to focus on the local market nearly two decades after its debut – Agweek

PELICAN RAPIDS, Minn. – Much of the picking is devoted to growing vegetables for local markets.

For Lida Farm, near Pelican Rapids in Lida Township, Ryan and Maree Pesch choose weekends and Mondays for their community-supported agriculture business. The boxes go out on Mondays and Tuesdays. On Tuesday, they pick for the farm stand at a bakery in Fergus Falls. Thursdays and Fridays they pick for the Pelican Rapids Farmer’s Market. And along the way, they might choose some for the Manna Food Co-op in Detroit Lakes and their farm stand.

Their method of distributing vegetables has changed over time since they started the 20-acre farm in Lida Township in 2004, with the only constants being growing and picking.

“Us veggies are kinda squirrely,” laughed Ryan, reflecting on his company’s iterations. “Or maybe I’m the most squirrel of them all.”

The Minnesota Grown website lists 178 summer farmers’ markets and 34 winter markets held throughout the state. The site also lists 80 CSA farms with 160 collection sites statewide.

Lida Farm will participate in an event to raise awareness of sustainable agriculture. The farm will host the Lake Agassiz Chapter of the Sustainable Farming Association’s second annual Deep Roots Festival on September 10 from 1-8 p.m.

“The idea of ​​the Deep Roots Festival is to invite the public to celebrate the harvest season with the local farming community. It’s for everyone. You don’t have to be an organic food enthusiast to enjoy the festival…just bring your family to the farm for the evening to enjoy tacos and farm-to-table music,” Ryan said.

The event will include a farm visit to several local farms, educational workshops, activities for children, live music, and food and produce from local farms. One of the features of this year’s festival is the premiere of a photo exhibition by local artist Jon Solinger. Titled “Deep Roots: Sustaining a Living Community,” Jon’s work portrays the sustainable farmers in our region who work every day to grow food while caring for the land.

Tickets are $20 per person and include a meal and access to all activities. Children 12 and under are free. To purchase tickets in advance and for a full schedule of events, go to

www.deep-roots-festival.com

. All proceeds will go to promoting sustainable agriculture and education in the area. For more information, contact the Lake Agassiz Chapter at lakeagassiz@sfa-mn.org.

Ryan Pesch said Lida Farm had two CSA subscribers is its first year in 2004 and grew to 124 in 2021. In 2022 there are 100 subscribers.

Trevor Peterson / Agweek

Ryan Pesch became interested in the local agricultural movement while dating Gustavus Adolphus in Saint Peter, where he also met Maree.

“I’m not from a farming background. I’m a city kid from East Grand Forks,” he said. “It’s just something I wanted to explore after I graduated.”

After college, he worked as an apprentice on a farm near Stillwater, Minnesota. Ryan accepted a position as a community development educator at the University of Minnesota, which brought the family to Pelican Rapids in 2004. They purchased a 20-acre parcel of rolling farmland near Lake Lida. He already had a few years of business growth under his belt and expected to sell produce at farmers markets.

That was until a few people asked him if he would be interested in starting a CSA. This first year, they sold two subscriptions to the company, in which people prepay to receive seasonal products throughout the season.

“And then we’ve kind of grown since then,” he said. “So two random CSA members in 2004, and we went up to, last year, we had 124 members.”

The number is down to 100 this year, Ryan explained, “just because last year I got tired.”

They’ve sold at various farmers’ markets and at their honor system food stalls, and now they’re selling a bit at the Manna Food Co-op in Detroit Lakes. In the past, Lida Farm sold to restaurants, but it discontinued that years ago.

“I like a whole bunch of different ways to sell,” Ryan said.

The operation has continued to evolve since its inception, and it involves more than just the point of sale. They started with half an acre and eventually came to 6 acres of production. It’s now 3 acres, but Ryan said the production is about the same.

A field with a variety of crops including sweet corn and squash.
Ryan Pesch of Lida Farm said the farm’s diversity, including around 30 crops, helps him overcome weather challenges.

Trevor Peterson / Agweek

The farm was once certified organic, but Ryan abandoned it during the pandemic. The amount of paperwork required was coming to him, and since he sells the majority of his products directly, he didn’t think he would benefit from it. He hasn’t changed his farming practices since then, however, he said.

Like other farmers, Lida Farm planted things later than usual this year, which pushed the CSA season back.

“We like things earlier, but what can you do?” said Ryan.

But CSA members tend to understand that they buy more than timely products. They are there for the experience, he said. The diversity of the farm – with over 30 crops – means that even in years when the weather is bad for one thing, it is good for another. He can’t say for sure what and how much of something will be in a CSA box, but something will strive in the conditions.

“They appreciate the surprise” of seeing what products they receive each box, Ryan said of his CSA customers.

A brick building with the words "Manna Food Cooperative" in white.
Manna Food Co-op is located in downtown Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

Trevor Peterson / Agweek

Ryan and Maree Pesch’s passion for local food didn’t stop at their own farm. They were also actively involved in the Manna Food Co-op. Ryan is the last remaining founding board member of the co-op, which started in 2015 and opened a store in 2017. And Maree is acting manager after going to work to help there in 2019.

The co-op sources much of its produce through Paula’s Produce, which sources vegetables from area Amish growers, and through Co-op Partners. But sometimes, if Lida Farm has a lot of extras or if the co-op needs a certain type of produce or less quantity than what would come from suppliers, Maree will bring produce from their farm. Ryan sometimes donates extra products to the co-op.

“If we have gaps or are long on something that we know will sell well, we bring it in,” Maree said. “But like, we’ve had a lot of beans this week, so I thought, I’ll just get our beans out, because that’s better than I can get right now.”

The co-op works with local farmers who are members of the co-op to supply certain things, but it doesn’t want to be a dumping ground for what doesn’t sell at farmers’ markets, she said. The cooperative strives to have quality products to sell, and working with local farmers contributes to this.

“It’s good quality control to have a relationship with the farmers,” Maree said.