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The Abazs family provides vegetables for 70 to 100 families through the community supported agriculture program. (Photo courtesy of Lise Abazs)

Finland farmers named Lake County's Farm Family of the Year

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A Finland family has recently been named Lake County's University of Minnesota Farm Family of 2013. Lise and David Abazs of the Round River Farm will be recognized on the last day of Farmfest in Redwood County, Minn.

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"It's an honor to be thought of," David Abazs said. "We appreciate people thinking of us and bestowing us that honor."

Honoring 76 families from their respective counties this year, the Farm Family Recognition Program has been in existence for more than two decades. Families are selected each year by Local Extension committees of the University of Minnesota.

"People who do innovative things, and are involved in the community and agriculture organizations," the university's Nathan Crane said of the selection criteria.

The Abazs are involved in many different community organizations, such as the Superior CSA Farmers Guild, North Shore Growers Group, Western Lake Superior Regional Food System Assessment and the Wolf Ridge Organic Farm at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, as well as many others.

According to the University of Minnesota Farm Family website, Local Extension committees select the families for showing commitment to develop and support agriculture.

"These farm families are a major driver of Minnesota's economy and the vitality of Minnesota's rural communities," said Bev Durgan, dean of University of Minnesota Extension. "The University of Minnesota is proud to recognize these farm families for their contributions to agriculture and their communities."

Ironically, the Abazs won't be able to accept their recognition for farming because it's happening on a Thursday, the day of week they harvest and deliver their vegetables. There will, however, be someone there to accept it in their place.

The Abazs family bought their 40 acres of farmland in 1987. An abandoned Finnish homestead, it was soon to become the Round River Farm, a solar, wind and human powered homestead.

"It was a childhood dream," David Abazs said. "We've both wanted to farm ever since we were seven."

Administering vegetables to 70 to 100 families through a community-supported agriculture approach, the Abazs family utilizes green manures, crop rotations and companion planting, which are sustainable growing methods.

Because of the bedrock less than two feet below the soil, growing food is extremely difficult.

"We're thankful to grow good, healthy food," David Abazs said. Even with that major obstacle, their food is now higher than head level. "We got there because we wanted to get there," he said.

Also raising sheep, chickens and bees, the family thoroughly develops less than an acre. The Abazs also weave holiday wreaths with the balsam and other greens they gather from the forest, which occupies most of their property.

Lise and David Abazs are not the only ones of the family to work on the farm. Sons Colby and Tremayne, though currently in college, help them on their breaks and time at home.

With the late snow and frost, this year has been harder than others.

"It was a very challenging year to get things going," David Abazs said. "We are probably two to three weeks behind."

After overcoming many different barriers, the Abaz family has become successful and has some advice and knowledge for success.

"Don't worry about profit and be very persistent and unyielding in the effort," David Abazs said.

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