Farm and farmer history

Kevin: Ph.D. student in agriculture, beginning farmer, veteran, tinkerer, guy with too many ideas. PC in soy croppedGrowing up, I spent summers and weekends on this farm in the same house that we’re renovating to start our farming future. I played with my sister, worked with my father, and learned from my grandparents. When I was young, I knew I was going to be a farmer.  Later in life I began to wrestle with that plan; advice and ambition led me on to other things for several years.  A few years kicking around Minneapolis was followed by treating a case of wanderlust with an enlistment in the army as a combat engineer stationed in Germany.  Having been away from school long enough to appreciate it, I decided to go to college when I came home. My experience on the farm gave me an interest in living things and landscapes, so I focused on biology and ecology in my Bachelors program at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. While at UWS, I discovered an interest in field research and investigating scientific questions, so I went on to a Master’s program in integrated biosciences at the University of Minnesota in Duluth where I researched ecology and evolution of insects on goldenrod plants.  I gained a lot from the program but the best thing to come of it bar none was a relationship with my beautiful and brilliant farming partner, Annelie. I began to reconnect with farming while in Duluth and realized that there was some very exiting work being done in Sustainable Agriculture. When I entered my master’s program, I thought I could do the most good by researching how humans interact with the environment; during the program I realized that this was true, but my background and passion for farming provided the perfect avenue for me to have a bigger impact. Nothing people do has had a larger effect on the world than agriculture, and the application of ecological principles, new technology, and new knowledge has the potential to benefit farmers, communities, and ecosystems.  To develop my skills as a researcher in agriculture, I moved on to a Ph.D. program in Applied Plant Sciences at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul working with cover crops. My current research is trying to fit profitable cover crops into corn soybean rotations to add value to farms and provide ecosystem services on the landscape. There are three things I want to do with my career: I want to farm because it’s who I am and I feel the need to keep a connection to the land and dirt under my fingernails. I want to research because I see the need for change in agriculture and because I love new ideas and learning.  Finally, I want to teach because sharing knowledge is one of the most valuable things I can do and because it challenges me to truly understand what I’m doing when I have explain it to others. Good Turn Farm is my way of integrating those three aspects as a whole that will allow us to do well by doing good.

Annelie’s Gardening/Farming History:

Annelie started gardening early with her grandparents and parents.  Her family temporarily moved to the suburbs of Springfield, MO when she was in 3rd grade but she couldn’t give it up and started working the soil in their backyard with a fork from the kitchen.  Her parents kindly noticed, found her some proper tools, and she’s never turned back.  Straight out of high school, she started managing the large family garden site on the old homestead she rented from her parents.  Trial and error was the name of the game but the beautiful thing about gardening is:

“If a man works hard, the land will not be lazy” – Chinese Proverb

While not a man, she did work hard, and the land was by no means lazy. The potatoes never failed.  Determined to learn more about the natural world around her, she spent 4.5 years at University of Minnesota Duluth learning about the biology of the world. She spent the entirety of those years employed at a local floral shop and greenhouse, designing floral arrangements and hawking bedding plants, perennials, and trees.  This was Annelie’s first taste of combining her artist’s eye with the natural beauty of plants and flowers as well as an intense, hands-on education in horticulture. All the while, her vegetable gardening improved, as did her cooking. Shortly after starting graduate school with a focus on insect ecology and evolution, Annelie realized that Sustainable Agriculture was the field for her.  Sustainable Agriculture perfectly combined her drive to conserve & restore the environment with her love of vegetable & flower gardening.  During grad school, she worked on a small, organic fruit and vegetable farm and at the Duluth Farmers Market.  She also met her wonderful, handsome, land-inheriting (this only slightly influenced her decision) fiancé, Kevin - Good Turn Farm’s other half.  Shortly out of graduate school, she was offered the opportunity to teach a Plant Biology lecture and lab at the University of Minnesota which added to her understanding of the plant kingdom and the history of plant evolution.  During and since grad school she has also attended several regional conferences focused on organic farming, sustainable food systems, food access, and women in sustainable agriculture. Annelie is currently employed with the Women’s Environmental Institute, a non-profit organization working for social and economic change through food, farm, and environmental justice.  The organization runs a 25-acre, certified-organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm & orchard.  This is Annelie’s first time helping to run a CSA and she has already been introduced to and/or strengthened her knowledge of organic vegetable production, successive planting, mushroom production, microgreens, hoop house production, irrigation, safe-handling procedures for harvesting and packing, farm management, and direct & wholesale marketing.  Prior to the height of the growing season, she had the opportunity to design and implement classes on Aquaponics (growing fish and plants together) and Ecological Pest Management for urban farmers. Kevin and Annelie have just begun the process of taking over a corner of the family farm that will become Good Turn Farm and she’s excited to see what their future in sustainable farming will hold.

Farm heritage and the reason for the acorn

OK And Emma Good Turn Farm is just sprouting but the history of my family on this piece of land goes back five generations. At the age of fifteen, my grandpa’s grandpa Oscar K. (OK) Andersson emigrated to the area with his parents and two brothers in 1875, losing an s along the way. They came from the Närke province of Sweden, which is I believe where nearby Nerike hill got its name. OK began working on farms shortly after arrival and later became a brakeman on the Canadian Pacific Railroad.  When he returned, he bought one of the last available parcels of land and founded Oak Wood Farm where my family has continued to work the land. OK was active in local government, and owned one of the first cars in the area (a Buick). He had four children with his wife Emma, the youngest of which was my great grandfather Merritt Anderson. OK retired to Pepin when Merritt took over the farm; my grandpa Merlin once told me of how he imitated his grandfather OK’s protruding stomach and swagger when he was walking with him in town. Great Grandpa Merritt and Grandpa Merlin were both born in the same house which I came home to after being born; my dad and stepmom lived there until 2000 when they built a new house on the land recently building a new home. Merritt recalled helping his father disassemble the cabin that had been the Little House in the Big Woods where Laura Engalls Wilder was born and spent her youngest years and is now memorialized across the road from our place. Merritt was a soldier in WWI, operated a threshing machine as his father had, and also had a saw mill. My Grandpa Merlin inherited the farm and ran it as a dairy operation. He eventually bought the parcel his uncle had built on along with several others in the 1960’s and 70’s when farms were expanding and increasing production. The craftsman house that we’re now renovating was built by my great uncle Ed in the 1930’s who operated a machine shop across the street. My grandparents eventually moved into the house when my father took over the farm in the 80’s. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with the two of them in this house even though my parents divorced when I was young. My father spared me from milking by converting the farm to focusing on cash crop production in the mid 80’s, a hard time for dairy farms. The farm is now run by my father and stepmom, who have both worked other jobs for most of their lives to support their farming habit. This farm has gone through changes as each generation brings their best ideas onto the land and will continue to develop through my life and beyond. I’ve always had a strong connection to this piece of land and I’m grateful to all the Andersons (and Anderssons) who made it part of my heritage. The way I see it, this farm belongs to my grandparents and my grandchildren and it’s my place to honor the memory of those who came before me and leave something worth being proud of for those who come after me. The acorn you see in our logo represents the connection of Good Turn Farm to Oak Wood Farm; it shows that we are an offshoot of something well rooted and carry great potential for growth.

6 Responses to Farm and farmer history

  1. allisonpepin@gmail.com' Allison Lisk-House

    Hi neighbors!
    Looking forward to crossing paths, with dirt under nails. Pull in any time when you need a break (what’s that?). Spring will come real soon…
    Welcome,
    Allison

    • Annelie Lindberg-Livingston

      Hello Allison,
      Pleased to virtually meet you! I look forward to meeting you in person and learning about your floral designing. Maybe we can grow some flowers for you!
      Happy 1st day of Spring,
      Annelie

  2. judygibk@gmail.com' Judy Krohn

    Welcome to the neighborhood! We live just northwest of Lund, and will hope to meet you in person someday soon. We will be so grateful to have your energy and expertise added to a growing interest in food and farming in our area!

    • Annelie Lindberg-Livingston

      Hi Judy! We’ll look forward to meeting you as well! If you’re ever passing the little house wayside on county cc, take a look-see across the street (never mind the disrepair for now) – we might be out working.

  3. Jgbaxterrn@comcast.net1' Jane

    You both speak to my soul.
    You must know my niece, Carly, out there in the upper Midwest?
    Check out MOFGA website. I think it will interest you as it gives life to many of your beliefs.
    Jane now in Maine by way of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Duluth.

    • Annelie Lindberg-Livingston

      Hi Jane – I don’t know if I have met your niece but you should tell her keep an eye out for happenings on our farm if she is in the area. The MOFGA website looks full of good info, I’ll have to take some time to look through it!

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