We farm organically and as of August 2014 our herbs, fruits and vegetables are certified organic through MOSA (Midwest Organic Services Association). Our 7 acre farm in southern Goodhue County provides habitat for a variety of birds, amphibians, and mammals in the pasture and woods, as well as in the farm fields. We are reclaiming a barn and granary built in the 1890’s (they were on the verge of collapse when we arrived) and we have built a hoophouse in order to provide produce for more of the growing year. Please visit us!!
Farming in the Genes
There is a history of farming on both my mother and father’s sides of the family.
My mother’s family name is “Brackett”, following the male lineage (as is common) and my Great Great Grandfather is George Augustus Brackett. George was a big mover and shaker in early Minneapolis history – he started the first volunteer fire department, he started an aid society to help widowed women and orphans, and he had a farm where he grew and bred giant irises and lots of other plants on Brackett’s Point on Lake Minnetonka. He and his wife Anne has 7 sons and one daughter, and at the age of 70 (after Anne died?) he decided to “make his fortune” by selling provisions to the miners up in Alaska during the Alaska and Klondike Gold Rush (1900-1902). So he and his sons and their wives travelled to Skagway, Alaska and Atlin, BC and lived there for 2-3 years. One of the son’s wives was an amateur photographer and she took a number of photos and put them in an album. For a number of reasons this album was lost to my mom’s family for years until it was found in a crashed car in California. My Mom was encouraged by the Alaska Historical Society to interpret the photos, and she did, in a book she wrote called One Women’s Gold Rush.
George A.’s son was my grampa’s Dad. My grampa was John Chapin Brackett, and I knew him well when I was a kid because most weekdays he came out to our house in Afton, Minnesota, to use my parents’ yard to garden. We ate the produce, and my grampa would also take extra produce around to his friends in St. Paul. There are photos of me at the age of 2, putting onion sets into the dibble holes that grampa created. And I have fond memories of grampa’s “breaks” from gardening. He would settle himself in a lawn chair and open a beer and ask me if I wanted a sip. I always did, but I would take a gulp! I liked beer better as a kid than I do now. Once my little sister Julia was around Grampa would offer this treat to both of us, and when I took my gulp Julia would cry fowl “Melissa took a gulp Grampa, not a sip!”. I don’t remember getting in trouble – Grampa would just laugh. Grampa and his brother Russel (my “Uncle Russ” who was really my great uncle) grew up breeding and showing Jersey cows at the State Fair. There are some sweet photos of the two boys and their cows prepped for the fair.
According to my Dad my Mom did not start gardening until my Grampa died when I was ten. There was that huge garden, and Grampa not around to take care of it…my Mom had lost her Mom when she was ten, so Grampa was her last biological parent. I think gardening was a way to honor grampa, and to grieve. I get that. My Mom died in 2012, and I think part of my impulse go grow things is therapy. But Mom didn’t just grow vegetables, she started the Afton Farmers Market, she was in the first Master Gardener class at the University of Minnesota, and she wrote 100+ nationally publicized articles that were mostly about gardening, for a number of magazines. She wrote for Mother Earth News, Organic Gardening, Family Food Garden, and many others. There are a number of cute photos of 6 year old me holding a huge head of broccoli, or some other vegetable, because Mom said she would give us a modeling fee if she could sell her the photo with the article she was writing. She knew what would motivate us to sit still and smile. She taught Julia and I how to write. In fact, when I went to graduate school, I was chagrined to learn that instead of writing in a magazine style I would have to write in the “just the facts” style of scientific writing. Mom also taught us about experimentation. Many of her articles were write-ups of her garden experiments.
On my Dad’s side, my Great Great Grandmother Thomsen made her money first in Joliet Ill, selling women’s hats. In middle age she married Mr. Thomsen and came to St. Paul, and she purchased the St. Paul Pioneer Press. She lived on Summit Avenue, but her daughter Hazel (who was really her brother’s daughter, but she adopted Hazel and her two sisters) inherited some of the fortune and purchased a farm in Center City called “Hazel’s Den”. Yup, and when the family sold the farm the name remained and now “Hazelden” is a world renowned addiction treatment center. My grandmother Abigail (Abby, but we called her ‘Nana’) and her younger siblings grew up at Hazelden. The farm had a herd of milking Jerseys, a huge flock of chickens, a stable of horses for riding, beautiful gardens, etc.
My Great Uncle Charley was one of my Nana’s younger siblings and one day when I was 9 or so Uncle Charley pulled into our driveway in Afton with 25 Rhode Island Red hens and a rooster. Recently I learned that Charley did not call ahead and ask my parents anything, he just brought these chickens for me, and from then on I have been attached to chickens! At 11 I was winning Reserve Grand Champion and Grand Champion for my breeding pens and egg-laying pens at the Washington County Fair and then going on to show at the Minnesota State Fair. Charley made his living raising chickens for a while before I was born. He raised broilers, and capons before the farm was sold. Then he went into selling cars.
The other family member who had a big influence on my Dad, and therefor on me too, was Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob (who is really Great Uncle Bob) grew up at Hazelden, and then he got married and had kids, but he parented my Dad and my uncle Fletcher, and other boys as well. He taught them about fixing cars, he had road trip adventures with them, they found old abandoned boats and fixed them together. He loved Port Wing, Wisconsin, on the South Shore of Lake Superior, and he took them up there to goof around and grow up. There are lots of Uncle Bob stories in our family, he was really my Dad’s second Dad. Because of Uncle Bob my Dad gets a lot of joy out of fixing just about anything, going on adventures, creating furniture or just about anything out of wood, and he was a patient teacher of those things. Uncle Bob sometimes got the boys in a little bit of trouble, but he was also very patient, and lots of fun. When I was a kid he used to do this trick that I loved where he lit a match (he and my Nana were life-long smokers) and then he would stick the lit match in his mouth. He could also find quarters behind my ear.
So my passion for chickens from Great Uncle Charley, my passions for vegetables from my Mom and my Grandfather, my passion for experimentation and learning from my Mom, my ability to fix stuff and create things out of wood from my Dad and Uncle Bob, a feeling of being rooted to Minnesota from all of these people, combined to create me, and I have created this farm. I don’t have kids, but I hope that someday I can pass this place and this work on to the next generation.
We believe that ecology and agriculture must be complementary to sustain human life on earth. We model this by providing delicious organic herbs, fruits and vegetables, and animal wefare approved eggs grown in a watershed- and earth-friendly way to our friends and neighbors. We believe that good food is essential for good health. We sustain our farm and ourselves by charging a fair price for what we consider the most healthy, best tasting, and ecologically sound food available!