In this week’s post we hear from farmer Dave Lundberg of Ingraberg Farm. This family farm works with passion and pride to produce great tasting produce grown the way nature intended. Their farming experience is extensive with a diversified background of farming knowledge culminated from working in the agricultural industry for over 30 years, with education in the wide range of farming techniques that are unique to sustainable farming. Demand for organic and sustainable farming has grown so much, Dave is now focusing on training other farms to be sustainable. Dave’s wife Helen, and son’s Jason and Mike (along with their families), continue the legacy at Ingraberg.
Farmer Dave’s definition of a sustainable farm is one that’s all about the community. In the early 80’s Ingraberg became the first CSA in the state of Michigan. They now support a number of families along with a growing list of restaurants who have won honors for their farm to table foods. He says happily, “The wheel of sustainability is firing on all spokes”. In regard to the sustainability of the land itself, Ingraberg farm grows their own green manure crops, recycles horse and cow manure from other farms for compost, and raises their soil fertility by planting cover crops. In this process a crop of oat, rye, or clover for example, is planted and then “turned under” into the soil to add beneficial minerals to the soil like phosphorus.
We all know to expect squashes and pumpkins in the fall, and tomatoes and sweet corn in warmer weather. But why exactly is this so? Prepare for a quick science lesson. Dave explains that each plant requires a certain amount of heat units to grow, too little will stunt growth and too much will cause the plant to go to seed. Tomatoes and peppers require 60 degrees at night to set fruit. We can’t have tomatoes in June because there isn’t enough time (many need between 60-70 days) or heat necessary to mature. In Michigan, we don’t have a long or hot enough growing period for some plants, like citrus, to even stand a chance. What we do have is humidity, but we already knew that, and typically warm July and August temperatures that benefit farming.
So, what can you expect to see from Ingraberg in your Doorganics bin? Coming up in June will be crops such as baby beets, carrots, english peas, lettuces, kale, rainbow chard and sugar snap peas. Dave explains that what you will receive is almost entirely dependent on the weather, and as someone who used to farm in California, he says that Michigan can be a difficult place to grow. You may remember last year’s unseasonably warm March and April, followed by a cold snap which caused local fruit farmers to lose most of their crop. Sometimes Ingraberg farmers will take a chance and plant something early (they know you all want those veggies!) but it’s a gamble and the weather often wins. According to Farmer Dave, the plants will know when a cold front is coming and the growth will shut down. If it’s a cold summer night, the plants still need time in the morning to warm up from the sun and begin growing again. In the same vein, when nights are a comfortable 60 degrees, the plants can keep growing almost 24 hours a day.
Farmer Dave’s opinion on eating seasonally in Grand Rapids is to “capture the harvest”. This means canning, freezing, and dehydrating to prepare for colder weather. He recalls as a child storing potatoes five feet deep in the ground – covered in straw and topped with a piece of barn wood. In January, “we’d go out there on our bellies and reach into a hole and get perfect potatoes”. He asks, “how did people live 100 years ago?” Answer – root cellars. He also mentioned that Michigan has a thriving greenhouse community, which can bring us different crops in seasons they would not normally be available.
Ingraberg Farm grows red carrots, purple carrots, heirloom tomatoes in a rainbow of colors, sweet corn – and Dave is proud of every single one of them. The methods he uses to sustain his plants on a cellular level have lead to amazing results. In the 80’s, Ingraberg had a large customer base of cancer patients who were eating the veggies raw or juicing them as part of their treatment. Dave says, “their comments were beyond belief” and as for the farm’s other endorsements, “our certification is the people that eat our food”.
My talk with Dave was eye-opening and inspiring. It made me realize that my knowledge of farming doesn’t even scratch the surface of the wealth of information that is available. That being said, I’m even more excited to continue on this journey with you and expand our knowledge of the local food system.
Next week I’ll be talking to Lettuce Boy Farm about the health benefits of their radishes (which you will be receiving in your bin next week) and the time and care they put into growing them. You can also look forward to a delicious radish-centered recipe!