Plans for Wolf Ridge farm move forwardThe Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland is planning to start working this summer towards providing for its own vegetable needs.
The Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland is planning to start working this summer towards providing for its own vegetable needs.
David Abazs, Round River Farm owner and Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture senior fellow, who also works part-time at Wolf Ridge, said the project has been given the green light this year by the Wolf Ridge ELC board, with donations from the Natural Resource Conservation Services and Organic Consumers Organization.
Beginning in June, Wolf Ridge ELC plans to clear a site, build a 30-by-96-foot greenhouse and a road into the site, drill a well for water, bring electrical power and do some other infrastructure construction. Wolf Ridge hopes to be able to start planting next spring. Abazs said he’s excited about the project and that it will provide great education opportunities for students.
“It’s a great way to connect more and more people to food,” said Abazs, who has been involved in local food issues for 25 years and recently appeared in the documentary “Farm to School: Growing Our Future.”
Wolf Ridge ELC has coordinated with Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., to bring Carleton College interns to the site. So far, one intern has been confirmed for this summer. Wolf Ridge puts a strong value on linking youth of the region to their resources, Wolf Ridge ELC director Peter Smerud said.
“We are looking at this farm not only as local organic food production for our center, but we are also going to use that as a teaching tool for children and adults who attend our program,” said Smerud.
Wolf Ridge ELC has been doing food-based education programs for more than 10 years but this is the first time it will do food production education, Smerud said. Wolf Ridge ELC intends for the farm to become certified USDA organic.
Produce might include lettuce, greens, carrots, tomatoes and peppers. Eventually, Wolf Ridge ELC would like to produce all vegetables consumed on its property, Smerud said. He hopes to add three more large green houses called “hoop houses” and maintain open fields. Those plans depend on finding funding to make them a reality. Smerud said Wolf Ridge ELC has applied for grants and is waiting to hear back.
Project organizers also are trying to figure out the best way to preserve vegetables for school-year visitors to Wolf Ridge ELC, who outnumber summer visitors. Another challenge will be the climate and growing season. But Smerud said that, though most people would put a question mark on farming in Northeastern Minnesota, he has seen other food producers in the area do it successfully.
“If I didn’t think it would be successful, we wouldn’t be doing it,” Smerud said.
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