Thanks to a whirlwind of votes, tweets, posts, and facebook shares, Laughing Loon Farm of Northfield, Minn. was recently selected as the first-ever “Farm Favorite” from more than 250 farms in Lundberg’s Raising Organic Family Farm contest. Laughing Loon Farm will receive a $2,500 award for a season extension project, plus a $500 bonus grant.
Laughing Loon Farm grows more than 100 varieties of produce, such as greens, cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, squash, and zucchini for about 25 restaurants in the Twin Cities, including Bachelor Farmer, The Craftsman, and Corner Table, as well as colleges such as St. Olaf and Carleton. Dayna Burtness, Laughing Loon farmer and social media maven, thinks extending her growing season will improve her sales with the colleges, since schools aren’t in full swing during the peak growing season.
In the world of agriculture, “season extension” refers to farming practices that allow a crop to be grown outside of the range of its normal outdoor growing season. With the award money, Burtness hopes to extend her growing season by building some short, above-ground structures (caterpillar tunnels) using plastic. Because the above-ground tunnels offer insulation and protection, crops can be grown inside the tunnels in timeframes during which they would otherwise not survive, therefore extending Laughing Loon’s growing season by as much as three months.
Burtness, a small-scale sustainable farmer, was impressed that she received so much support from Minnesotans and people across the county and in Canada during the contest. The contest is a multi-year initiative that hopes to inspire a new generation of organic family farmers and provide financial support, education, and mentoring to aspiring organic farmers.
“I’m really excited,” said Burtness. “I got such an overwhelmingly positive response. It’s fun to have people all across the country rooting for you. People want to help young farmers, which I think is awesome.”
FYI, this year Burtness will will be distributing produce through Twin Cities Local Food, a brand new online marketplace in the Twin Cities that is selling a variety of locally grown produce, meat, and goods. Each week, vendors log into the site and list the products they are selling. Member customers then place orders through the site and pick up their orders at a designated location. The first ordering period begins on April 6, 2012.