Anoka Soil and Water Conservation District
Bruce Bacon owns and operates Crandall Garden Farme, also known as Garden Farme, on land that was first purchased by his great grandparents in 1913. Bruce is a permaculturist and his farm is a “new age operation,” as he calls it. He’s been growing speciality crops by hand for restaurants and caterers since the 1990s, and his farm has been certified organic since 1977. Today, he supplies about a dozen local caterers and restaurants with produce and herbs, and trains interns and other growers in exchange for marketing. In 2015, the University of Minnesota Extension Services named it the 2015 Farm Family for Anoka County.
Bruce is currently shifting his business model to include “custom growing,” a system in which caterers and restaurants choose crops to produce and provide a gardener to farm them. One restaurant already participates and two others are interested, he says. Bruce is also seeking certification as an “incubator farm” from Oregon Tilth (he earned organic certification from Oregon Tilth in 2000), one of the original organic certifiers in the country. According to Bruce, he’s always trying to make the link between urban and rural worlds stronger through relationships with restaurants.
He got involved in soil health as a result of going organic and his interest in permaculture design and agro-ecology. Today Bruce uses raised beds, aged manure, and mulch (in lieu of cover crops), and holds educational and promotional events on behalf of conservation farming, like “Dinner on the Farm.” Here’s a snapshot of the event:
Arriving guests are welcomed to the farm and shown to the farm dinner area, where they can place a picnic blanket, mingle, and enjoy a local beer and passed appetizers. About a half an hour into the evening, there is an introductory talk and a 30-minute, guided tour of the host farm. While you’re getting to know the host farmer, a renowned regional chef will be preparing a feast on-site with fresh ingredients grown in the very fields you are touring. The tour will end back at the farm dinner area where you will be invited to serve yourself from the communal table. You’ll spend the rest of the afternoon sharing a delicious meal with friends and family and listening to live music from our farm band all from your own picnic blanket. End the celebration with a sunset bonfire and conversation with a community of like-minded, adventurous eaters.
Bruce also created a poster – The Soil System – as an outreach aid (available for purchase). He told NACD he has had nothing but good experiences experimenting with and using soil health practices. He’s noticed that the health and vigor of his crops have improved, as well as their capacity to fight off disease. One of the biggest challenges in soil health management is the continual need to do soil testing – it’s expensive, Bruce says, especially for a small specialty crop farmer.
Support for his local produce/organic operation didn’t come from the extension service early on, mostly because it didn’t have expertise in those areas of production at the time. He found support through the Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association, a network of organic farmers that shares valuable resources and advice.