Meet Eleanor and Pearce
Tell us about your farm!
Eleanor: StrongHeart Farms is a mixed vegetable operation located on two rented acres of farmland, one at BRF and one in Schafer, MN. We primarily sell at the Stillwater Farmers Market, through our own independent CSA and to The Food Group’s food shelf program.
This is our second year growing at BRF. We focus on regeneratively grown food and reciprocity with the earth – giving back to both the land and the community. The food we grow is chemical-free, nutrient dense, and regeneratively raised. We pay particular attention to soil health – soil health equals healthy food, which equals healthy people!
Share a favorite farm memory!
E: When the frost hit around October 20th last year, we needed to harvest our potatoes at our plot in Schafer. I called some friends to help me with a full day of potato harvesting. I brought a camp stove and heated up water for tea for everyone. It was a great experience!
What is your relationship with farming and/or organic food?
Eleanor: My main relationship to farming and food is knowing where my food comes from and how it was grown, establishing relationships with the land and the farmers that grow or raise it.
Pearce: We both used to work at Rainshadow Organics, a full diet farm in Oregon – they have meat and dairy cows, pigs, chickens, mixed veggies, and grains. 80% of our diet was grown on this farm in Oregon! It was our first immersion into the organic food world and the true flavors of freshly harvested veggies. It opened our eyes to the impact of our food decisions.
What has your experience been so far at Big River Farms?
Land access is huge for beginning farmers, especially those that need the time to develop systems and a business. BRF is a safe space – it allows you to make mistakes without fear of losing your business or defaulting on a loan. Having access to well-maintained farm infrastructure (like storage coolers, pack and cleaning stations, tractors, tools) is another huge benefit.
Are there any surprises you’ve experienced along the way?
Pests! The climate in Oregon where we farmed was very arid and there was far less pest pressure and mold/rotting of veggies.
Drought! Two consecutive years of summer droughts in MN have been a surprise!
Getting the Lakewinds grant was a great surprise too! It covered our Cowsmo compost and materials to create three caterpillar tunnels in our fields. Knowing that there is a local community here that wants to support new farmers has been great.
What challenges have you faced as an ’emerging’ farmer?
Creating an initial customer base as an emerging farmer has been challenging, especially coming from a well-established farm in Oregon that had a solid customer base.
Learning what scale to grow at has been a challenge – we more than doubled our production of land from 2021 to 2022 and have had to learn more about our own capacities and thresholds to handle the increased workload.
What do you enjoy about being a small business owner?
E: Seeing return customers at farmers markets! Knowing our customers’ names and veggie preferences is incredible and helps us establish long-lasting relationships.
P: Being a small business owner allows us to create our own goals and processes based on our values while not having to adjust our operations based on another business owner’s needs.
So far, what’s been your biggest success?
P: Having a 25 person CSA in year two of farming has been a big success! We doubled from 12 CSA members in 2021 to 24 this year!
What do you hope for the future of your farm?
We want to diversify to have more offerings and products (e.g., chickens, eggs, pigs, cattle), moving more toward the full diet farm model. We will eventually try to get a USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) loan to buy our own farmland nearby.