FERGUS FALLS, Minn., March 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Bluebird Gardens, a biological vegetable farm in western Minnesota, wants to change the way we see local food in retail markets. "Local can mean a store in Fargo, North Dakota bought onions from a farm in Michigan," says owner Mark Boen. "That's not our idea of local." Mark is uniquely qualified to address what local means. For nearly four decades he has served the community through farm stands, eventually growing to a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and becoming a recognized conservationist, not to mention his 30 years of teaching in public school.
"The truth is we would have needed alternative funding this year no matter what," says operations manager Jesse Lukes. "The farm sustained a loss for the first time in 38 years last year, but we are determined not to let that stop us." Mark and Jesse's ambition to improve access to healthy, local food in area communities has led them to launching a Kickstarter campaign. "As the American food revolution continues to grow, local family farms need help scaling up their businesses to become a vibrant part of the market," says Boen.
In just two weeks they hope to raise $1 million to fund needed upgrades on the farm. "We don't turn a big profit, and the farm always finds a way to swallow it all back up when we do," Boen says. Much of the investment into the farm has been for conservation. "As farmers we are soil-forward in our thinking," says Jesse. "In order to restore ecosystems and protect groundwater we accept a lot of extra costs over input-output farming."
Since getting their start in 1978, Mark and Diane Boen have restored the Bluebird habitat in the surrounding area by building houses across their entire property and protecting them from other rodents and pests. On their (now) 404-acre farm they keep bees, maintain pollinator habitats and encourage biodiversity throughout the farm, which yields healthy, tastier crops. These efforts have seen them recognized as the Soil Health Champion by the Otter Tail County Conservation Board and a Minnesota Clean Water Certified Farm.
"We are hoping to exceed funding and raise $3 million," Jesse says, "which helps us get started on our community initiatives like Walipinis (akin to a sunken greenhouse) and indoor growing systems so we can make this a reality for our surrounding communities." Mark and Jesse are coalition members with the Central Minnesota Food Systems Network, a group of volunteers working to secure healthy local food in grocery stores, schools, and beyond. "We know the community is behind us on this," adds Jesse, "but we also know that we have to look outside our small community if we are going to win this one."
To learn more about Bluebird Gardens, their conservation and education plans, and help support the farm visit bluebirdgoesgrocery.com.
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SOURCE Bluebird Gardens